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Nintendo device revives Donkey Kong

The video game veteran announces plans for the e-Reader, an add-on for GameBoy Advance that allows it to read cards with a magnetic stripe.

Donkey Kong is boldly going where no animated ape has gone before--a thin piece of electronically enhanced cardboard.

Video game veteran Nintendo announced Thursday release plans for the e-Reader, an add-on for the company's popular GameBoy Advance portable game player. The unit will plug into the GBA and include an optical scanner capable of reading patterns printed on the cards.

Initial cards will include a series of trading cards based on Nintendo's popular Pokemon franchise, and cards bearing full versions of games originally made for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the company's groundbreaking game console from the mid-1980s. The first game releases will include "Donkey Kong Jr.," "Balloon Fight" and "Excitebike."

The card reader will also exploit the GBA's ability to hook up with the GameCube, Nintendo's living-room game console. Cards with exclusive content for the upcoming "Animal Crossing" will ship with the reader, and support for other GameCube titles is in the works.

While Nintendo is engaged in a fierce three-way battle with Sony and Microsoft for living-room game consoles, it's had the portable game player market almost all to itself for the better part of a decade.

The Game Boy Advance has sold more than 6 million units in North America since its introduction a year ago. The GBA and the earlier Game Boy Color account for more than 95 percent of the handheld game-player market. No credible threat to Nintendo's handheld dominance has emerged, despite speculation that Sony and Microsoft have considered producing handheld game machines.

Nintendo is counting on its handheld dominance to help boost sales for the GameCube, which can connect with the GBA to serve as an extra controller or swap game content.

The e-Reader is set to go on sale Sept. 16 for $40 in a package that includes several game and Pokemon cards. Additional cards with NES games will sell for $5.