What Happened to Intellivision? The Console’s History.


If you’re a video game aficionado like me, then you probably know a lot about the first few generations of gaming consoles and their history. The 1970s were a big point in time for the history of gaming, and they also brought with them a lot of competition. In 1972 with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey the very first console, electronics companies began rumbling.

This rumble produced the second generation of video game consoles that included popular consoles like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision which was released in 1979. Intellivision, the biggest competitor to Atari 2600 actually took the market by storm but fell off the map barely half a decade later. What happened to Intellivision?

By 1983 Mattel, the developer of Intellivision posted hundreds of millions of dollars in losses sending the once-popular Intellivision console to liquidation. They attribute this company failed to a few things:

  • A significant increase in competition
  • The failed launch of Intellivision II
  • Lack of big-name titles
  • Their new ROM system that locked out unlicensed 3rd party software

Which Came First, Atari or Intellivision?

The Atari 2600 which is formally known as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS, was released in September of 1977, two years prior to the release of the Intellivision console. Both consoles were part of the second-generation of computer and video game consoles.

The first generation saw a crash in 1977 and many companies, in turn, left the industry completely. Shortly after this same year, the Atari 2600 is released which is attributed to a come back of the industry and the release of the second generation of consoles.

With the second generation of consoles came game cartridges. First-generation consoles only used built-in games. Some believe this is part of the reason the first generation was short-lived. Having the ability to insert cartridges gave the consoles more flexibility as well as produced a need for third-party game producers.

We actually see the first third-party game developer introduced in 1979, Activision, which was founded by former Atari programmers.

How Did Intellivision Stand Out?

Intellivision was well known for being the first console to use a 16-bit microprocessor. 16-bit processors didn’t become well known until the release of the fourth generation of consoles in the late ’80s which produced the infamous “16-bit era.”. They were nearly a decade ahead of the game on processing capability. The 10-bit built-in ROM however, was used for storage.

Intellivision was also known for its sound chip, “AY-3-8910” which was advanced for the gaming market at the time. The sound was delivered through three sound channels and provided a much clearer sound output than competitors.

Check out this commercial featuring George Plimpton released by Mattel.

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The company actually used many advertisements like these to call out its competitor Atari. The advertisements showed the distinctly better features of the Intellivision console. The features mainly focused on were: realism, sound, and ease of play.

Another aspect that made Intellivision far ahead of its time was PlayCable. PlayCable allowed an online connection through cable television system operators that would let subscribers download games onto their Intellivision system for a monthly fee.

PlayCable, although very familiar to our now popular online networks from Playstation and Xbox, actually failed because the technology at the time was just too expensive for the average household.

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How Popular Was Intellivision?

Well surely with the above superior features, Intellivision had to be pretty popular, right?

To start, let’s look at the introduction advertisement for the Inellivison from Mattel.

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The relationship between Atari and Intellivision was much like what we see today between Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox. You’re going to find people who will stand behind Atari or those who will passionately stand behind Intellivision as the best gaming console of the second generation.

Where many say Intellivision lost to Atari was the lack of games available to the Intellivision system. In the 1980’s Atari actually licensed Space Invades as the first arcade-licensed home game. To follow other titles like Asteroids and Missile Command joined in on the Atari home console.

If you understand the popularity of these arcade game titles, you understand why Intellivision was already fighting a losing battle. While many flocked to the console to check out the amazing features that beat out Atari, it was a short-lived excitement. Analysts think there was an increased interest in features but in the end, consumers just couldn’t make the switch.

To this day, opinions are still just as heated when it comes to which was actually the better gaming console, but in terms of popularity, we would have to declare Atari VCS as the obvious winner.

Check out TechRaptor.net’s awesome comparison between the two systems.

What Was The Intellivision II?

Released in 1983 as a part of the third generation of video games, the Intellivision II was dubbed a huge downgrade in comparison to the prior system. In order to reduce manufacturing costs, the game console was noticeably more compact, produced with plastic materials instead of rubber, and included changes to the sound chip that produced a poorer quality of sound in some game titles.

At this point the Atari had been gearing up substantially with their own new console, that would specifically take down their competitor, but both Atari and Mattel didn’t foresee the oncoming release of ColecoVision by Coleco Industries. The release of this system introduced popular titles like Nintendo’s Donkey Kong.

Meanwhile, in order to reduce third party influence on Intellivision, Mattel introduced a new ROM system on the Intellivision II that would block third-party games from companies like Coleco from playing on the Intellivision system. Fans weren’t happy about this change as it made the system extremely limited with titles, it also produced glitches within other titles that were playable.

With the added interest in Nintendo, this paved the way for Famicom (later to be known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, NES) and Sega SG-100. With the inclusion of these consoles, the gaming industry saw Japan’s introduction to the market and its ability to be top contenders in video game and console development.

By the end of 1983, all factors included in the third generation wave, Mattel sees a loss of over 300 million dollars. In 1984 they were forced to sell their rights to the Intellivision system and games to INTV Corp. 

The Continuation of Intellivision Through INTV Corp.

After the purchasing of rights, INTV Corp continues to sell the remaining inventory of the Intellivision II throughout much of 1984. It became necessary for them to produce more units of the system to catch up with demand, but this led to lower quality manufacturing of the units.

INTV would go on to release the INTV System III also known as the Intellivision Super Pro System that was nearly identical to the original Intellivision but showcased in a black and silver housing.

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They began focusing more on the production of next-generation popular games like Monster Truck Rally for the NES system. Ultimately in 1990, they would sign into a licensing agreement with Nintendo and Sega that required them to discontinue the Intellivision line altogether marking the end of the Intellivision name until the early 2000s.

Intellivision for PC

In 1997 the rights to Intellivision were once again retrieved by former Intellivision programmers. In an attempt to revive the infamous console title, they released a PC downloadable version of all Intellivision games for the computer, although there were some titles that could not be included due to a loss of rights.

Intellivision Entertainment and the Intellivision Amico™

Leading up to 2018 we can see many famous consoles like Xbox and PlayStation featuring various Intellivision titles for play. Tommy Tallarico serving as president for a new company called Intellivision Entertainment leaks plans to launch an all-new Intellivision console system in May of 2018.

In October 2018 it was officially confirmed at the Portland Gaming Expo that the console dubbed “Intellivision Amico™,” would launch in October of 2020. Check out the official press release for the Intellivision Amico™ here.

You can also watch the official reveal trailer here.

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Some notable and exciting features that have made fans everywhere curious about the competing ability of the Intellivision Amico™:

  • Games require strict quality approval before being considered for the console.
  • They stress the importance of family gaming and promise all titles to be rated E for Everyone or E10+.
  • All games are downloadable and are as low as $2.99 with a maximum charge of $7.99. The average gaming title for an XBOX One or Playstation 4 averages at about $59.00 for comparison.
  • There will be no downloadable content, add-ons or in-app purchases. An infamous nuisance that gamers have been complaining about for many years now and seem to be flooding the market as well as reducing the quality of gameplay. 
  • The system will have all the Intellivision classics built-in and pre-installed.

Controller features for the Intellivision Amico™:

  • The controllers are wireless and feature Bluetooth compatibility. The console can support up to 8 players at a time.
  • All controllers have a three and a half-inch color touchscreen.
  • Arcade-style tactical feedback buttons and a positional disc with an interactive LED border.
  • Force feedback in the form of vibrations.
  • The controller can be used either horizontally or vertically.
  • Wireless charging capability included.
  • Built-in speaker and microphone.
  • And a downloadable app that allows mobile phones as additional controllers.

The hardware for the Intellivision Amico™ will feature 2D Image Processing and Graphics Capability, along with onboard interactive lighting technology. Intellivision Online Store will be available for purchasing additional software or games and participating in multi-player tournament style play.

Much like Sony and Microsoft, they will also include a trophy and achievement system that will reward players who accomplish unique tasks. There will also be a unique leaderboard system for player ranking.

The console promises reimagined games that will feature: updated graphics, modern audio, more levels, multiplayer modes both local and online and tournaments.

Some of these reimagined classic games come from not just Intellivision, but also Atari and Imagic. Here’s a list of some of the games they intend to bring back reimagined:

  • Astrosmash™
  • Shark! Shark!™
  • Baseball, Night Stalker™
  • Skiing, Math Fun™
  • SNAFU™
  • Utopia™
  • Frog Bog™
  • Boxing, Bowling, Triple Action™
  • Tron Deadly Discs™
  • Cloudy Mountain: Crown of Kings, Star Strike™
  • Horse Racing, Auto Racing, B-17 Bomber™
  • Pong™
  • Asteroids™
  • Centipede™
  • Tempest™
  • Adventure™
  • Missile Command™
  • Yar’s Revenge™
  • Breakout™
  • Lunar Lander™
  • Night Driver™
  • Sky Diver™
  • Warlords™
  • Microsurgeon™
  • Atlantis™
  • Demon Attack™
  • Dracula™
  • Beauty and the Beast™
  • Ice Trek™
  • Swords & Serpents™
  • Dragonfire™
  • Truckin’™

The 9th Generation of Gaming Consoles

Generations are hard to define when it comes to gaming consoles on the market. Many analysts are still fuzzy on whether or not the next generation is defined by new competition, new hardware technology, or when current leading developers fall off the map.

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Technically speaking, many consider consoles like the Nintendo Switch to be a part of the 9th generation of gaming consoles, although we are still very much situated in the eighth generation currently with Wii U, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The Nintendo Switch saw a late release to this generation and it has yet to build up any competition which is why it’s hard to include.

It would seem like the gap between console generations is becoming more and more lengthier. Many expect the 9th generation to take place in 2020 as it feels right compared to recent generations.

Additionally, we have seen new development take place already with different console capabilities like with the Nintendo Switch. The Intellivision Amico is expected to also build upon that new development. These new contenders will force Microsoft and Sony to whip out their competing models in an attempt to continue to dominate the market.

Here’s a quick timeline of each generation thus far and the lead consoles within each:

  • 1st (1972–1977): Magnavox Odyssey
  • 2nd (1976–1983): Atari 2600/Intellivision
  • 3rd (1983–1987): NES
  • 4th (1987–1993): SNES/Genesis
  • 5th (1993–1998): PS1/N64/Saturn
  • 6th (1998–2005): Dreamcast/PS2/Gamecube/Xbox
  • 7th (2005–2012): PS3/360/Wii
  • 8th (2012-Present): PS4/XB1/WiiU

Microsoft’s Project Scarlett

With the talk of a new generation of consoles, Microsoft revealed last month that they plan to release their new console dubbed, “Project Scarlett,” in the 2020 holiday season. This would leave many to believe that yes, 2020 is, in fact, the start of a new generation for consoles.

Some notable standout features of this Microsoft console include 120 frames per second capability, a built-in solid-state drive, advanced micro devices chip, and Project xCloud. Project xCloud is said to give the user the ability to stream their games directly from their Xbox console instead of the Xbox servers. This would lead to a few crashes and increased speed in online gameplay.

Check out the Xbox Project Scarlett E3 2019 Reveal Trailer here.

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New Gaming Trends to Look Out For

It’s important to continually take a look at the new trends in the gaming industry even if they don’t directly relate to gaming consoles. These trends play a huge part in the evolution of the gaming industry and more often than not they pave the way for future advancements we might expect to see in home consoles in the years to come.

Virtual Reality

With the help of VR head-mounted displays like Oculus Rift, we’ve seen the capability of what virtual reality really has to offer. Virtual reality technology has made a huge shift in popularity over recent years and you can even find the technology being utilized in arcade-type environments.

With the help of VR goggles, machines immerse you in rollercoaster type rides and other worlds. With the addition of controllers, many have even been able to react and respond to the otherworldly environments. It’s not far fetched to think that in the coming generations of gaming consoles, we will see the incorporation of virtual reality systems and gameplay.

More Than One Screen

The Wii U Gamepad which was just released this year allows users to access other screens in the game from the convenience of their built-in touch screen on the controller. You can continue playing the game live while also browsing critical inventory screens with ease.

Checkout the gamepad here and get a complete tour.

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The Nintendo Switch allows you to connect controllers to their pad-like screen for gaming on the go.

Meanwhile, Sony introduced the Cross-Play which integrates the Playstation 3 with the PS Vita. This lets players stop playing on one device and then resume their same gameplay on the other device.

Don’t leave Microsoft out on this one either, they’ve incorporated their SmartGlass technology which has been out for many years. This technology is a downloadable app that will transform any smartphone and tablet into an additional tool for gamers.

We also know the Intellivision Amico™ will feature touch screens on their controller devices to follow this new and upcoming gaming trend.

A Look to The Future

It’ll be interesting to see the next generation of gaming consoles and what they have to offer gaming fans worldwide. Additionally, being able to see the comeback of classics like Intellivision will leave many feeling nostalgic and hopeful for the future of gaming. It’s always nice to see where past gaming leaders have taken us on this ever-evolving timeline of gaming consoles.