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Intellivision Amico – A family console we really want to succeed

We are hoping to see the new spiritual successor to the original Mattel console before the end of the year, but what can we expect?

Updated: Oct 27, 2021 10:05 pm
Amico with Screenshots

I started my gaming journey as a kid back in 1980 with an Intellivision and the rest is history. While many saw Mattel’s offering as a poor man’s Atari VCS it wasn’t. In so many ways the Intellivision was groundbreaking, with better graphics and sound and a unique controller that took early videogames to a new layer of complexity.

With the help of tie-ins with organizations like the NBA and the NFL and even the first licensed Dungeons and Dragons game – Cloudy Mountain, which I have still been known to play today, the Intellivision was the toy manufacturer’s big pump into a brave new world.

intellivision cloudy mountain
The original D&D license – Cloudy Mountain

We can leave the history lesson there but computers came along and the video game market crashed a few short years later and that was the end of Mattel, and, in the main, Atari producing home consoles. 

Atari stuck around with home computers for a while, right the way up to the great Atari ST and Atari Falcon but Mattel stepped away from dabbling after the failed Aquarius computer.

Industry veteran takes charge of Intellivision

Fast forward to 2018 and the arrival of Tommy Tallarico, an industry music veteran you can find credited on classics such as Earthworm Jim and somebody who has been in the industry as long as I have. 

Tommy has since gone on to break all manner of records with his phenomenally popular Video Games Live music spectacular which has been performed all around the world, as well as being Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame’s cousin. Anyway, now he’s the head of Intellivision and the new console he’s driving – the Intellivision Amico needs to be talked about sensibly.

I spoke to Tommy a year or so ago as we discussed my delight at the new project and the chance to play family-orientated games with my kids that also connected me to my own childhood.

Since then it’s fair to say that the path for Tommy and Intellivision hasn’t always been smooth. The Amico should have been out a year ago. It’s not, and contributing factors such as COVID have served to derail the best-laid plans.

Last week Amico launched physical boxed copies of the first batch of games (Amico games will come as downloads, all cost a family-friendly $10 or less and so, as a rule, don’t need a box).

Nostalgic collectors

Intellivision realized of course that there was a whole host of collectors, including the likes of me who have a fondness for Intellivision games and their unique packaging, so they released games for a console that currently has no release date and therefore can’t be downloaded and played on anything. Some corners of the gaming press chose to jump on this and use it as a way of poking fun but to me, this is unfair as Intellivision isn’t exactly selling these off the shelf, but herein lies the issue.

intellivision amico woodgrain
Limited edition Intellivision Amico, paying homage to the original’s woodgrain effect

Some quarters of the industry simply don’t want to look any further than Xbox, Nintendo, and Sony. They don’t see a place for a console that perhaps doesn’t fit into the boxes we have come to expect in recent years. They believe that what we have already simply covers all the bases.

Tallarico will repeat like a mantra that the Amico is aimed at families who want to play games together as a unit, sat around the TV, creating memories like I still have of playing with my parents all those years ago.

Of course, times have changed a fair bit, but the shouts of “We already have the Nintendo Switch” are false to me. Yes, we do, but a Switch game can cost around $50, and to truly play multi-player you are either talking about multiple consoles or controllers.

With the Amico, you get the two controllers but other players can just join in by downloading the app and using their smartphone as a controller. Anybody can join in. At a moment’s notice. Even grandparents.

Games are all cheap and pretty much instant to download. They are also all exclusive to the Amico. There’s no Call of Duty here. No Fortnite. The games are multi-player family orientated and simple, and yet from what we have seen still look like a lot of fun – including remakes of classics from yesteryear that you can still find me playing with my kids.

Twitter tantrums

There’s also been further furor as Tommy lost his temper on Twitter – never a good thing – in relation to a story that apparently used leaked documents to highlight that the Amico would be using a $100 processor that was similar to what was found in a smartphone in 2016. This again is taking something so far away from context for a headline it seems almost vindictive. 

The Oculus Quest 2 uses a Snapdragon processor from the same lineage and the games we are set to be playing will not require the kinds of CPU snobbery we currently see in the PC games market – not that you can get hold of them anyway.

The Amico is set to cost $249 so pointing out that a processor “only” costs $100 as if to suggest the console is overpriced seems odd. If you add up all the components in a $1000 TV do they come to a nice round thousand? Maybe they do, but I highly doubt it.

Maybe it’s easy to say “how can the Amico hope to succeed in the face of such competition?” but it’s also a bit lazy perhaps. Maybe we should hope it succeeds so we can get back some much-needed family time with everybody in the household.

For balance I undoubtedly have my rose-tinted glasses on. Many people have pre-ordered the Amico and still have no timeline as to when it will arrive after a few delays already. Now people have bought physical copies of games – albeit more designed as collector’s items rather than actual things to play. Are we actually going to see a console that gets kids playing with their families or a console where parents force their kids to play because they are chasing memories?

The nostalgia I still have for the original Intellivision will doubtless come back to haunt me when the Amico finally arrives, just like when you play Sonic on a copy of RetroArch for the first time in years, I imagine I will want for more, but for the chance to get my kids off the likes of Roblox on their iPads and actually interacting with their parents again it’s a risk I am willing to take.

The Intellivision Amico is due to release before the end of 2021

4 thoughts on “Intellivision Amico – A family console we really want to succeed”

  1. Adam

    Nice to read an article with some Amico optimism from a tech writer that actually knows what he’s talking about and understands the history and nostalgia of Intellivision. I still see loads of potential in the Amico and I don’t think its innovations are getting enough credit from the community – cradle charging; NFC integration; smart game guide/mood lighting; games that travel with the controller; ability to share games wirelessly; no loot boxes; co-play in every game; adaptive ability game engine; ability to use a phone as a controller in a pinch…just to name a few! When they get the marketing right, this system will turn the heads of a much wider audience, similar to what the Wii did so many years ago. I’m betting that Switch, PS and Xbox fatigue are real as there hasn’t been any real innovation in years, just incremental boosts to graphics.

  2. Gabe

    As a kid, I enjoyed playing Astrosmash, Mission X, Math Fun, and Micro Surgeon on the Intellivision.
    I also would watch my grandmother go nuts playing Burger Time and Lock N Chase.
    I’d love to get one for my grandmother who really loved playing it if we can get Lock N Chase and Burger Time again.
    Likewise, if they can get Micro Surgeon again I’ll probably be all over it.

  3. Pete

    So looking forward to playing Amico next year 🙂
    Can’t wait to play all the reimagined games that I played as a kid, it will be great!
    As someone who had an Intellivision as their first console, the thought of playing an updated Astro Smash is just amazing.
    Most people haven’t seen it yet, but when they do it will be a home run.

    • Tommy marked me for death

      The processor cost $100 in 2016. It’s worth about $18 now, and probably lower if he actually orders them in production quantities. And the ones that were slated to be used in the Amico are dead stock, now. They haven’t been made in a while. It was used in low end smartphones back when it came out. Just because a VR headset uses a much higher end version of the processor doesn’t mean it’s anything like that. It can barely even run Android. And that also bring a up the fact that the hardware still isn’t done, and the software is still being developed despite “being ready” over a year ago. He’s still looking for people to build and design the OS and all the games beyond the ones that are already free on the Android app store. And the controllers don’t work right with the games as he imagined them. They’re incredibly laggy and don’t display right. It’s badly implemented to save money.

      And one thing you forgot to mention is… Tommy’s a scumbag. His Twitter rants involve shouting lies at people and making things up out of nowhere. These “leaks” were things he left out in the open online, and people found. To cover up his foolishness, he called these “leaks” and threatened to sue everyone that even brings up the backstory. He’s attacked anyone that questioned any of what I mentioned previously, including me. And he’s not some industry titan, he’s just a washed up game musician. This entire thing’s embarrassing for me and anyone that really wanted one of these. It’s been worse than the VCS disaster.

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