The Backstory​


In The late seventies, toy giant Mattel was eyeing up Atari’s VCS and decided they wanted a piece of the video game pie. After dabbling in some hand-held electronic LED games, the company decided the time was right to launch a console.

In January 1979, Mattel’s Intellivison (“Intelligent Television”) was announced at the CES, and was soft launched in Fresno late that year. The console had a wider launch in 1980 and despite being technically superior to Atari’s VCS, it was no match for the arcade company’s home console.

In 1984 Mattel decided to exit the market, and a sold the assets of Intellivision to executives of Mattel Electronics, who eventually becoming INTV Corporation. The console was discontinued in 1990.

Intellivision Lives again!​

In 1997, Keith Robinson and Stephen Roney, former coders at Mattel, acquired the rights to the brand and games and formed Intellivision Productions. The new company created a series of compilations of emulated Intellivision games for MS-DOS, Windows and Macintosh. As well as this, they gave licenses to other companies to create similar compilations for Playstation, Nintendo DS and Xbox.

The trouble with emulating the Intellivision though, is that is had a very unique controller. Instead of a traditional joypad, the Intellivision controller consisted of a 16-way directional disc, 10 numbered buttons, and 5 additional buttons. This made playing some games a little tricky.

Flashback!​

In 2014, Intellivision Productions partnered with ATGames to create the Intellivision Flashback. ATGames had previously worked with Atari to create the Atari Flashback - a small console which featured built in games. The Intellivision Flashback was based on a similar idea - ie, a small Intellivision console with built in games – but with actual replica Intellivision controllers!

But would there be interest in new modernised versions of Intellivision games?

In 2015, Retroaction Entertainment launched a Kickstarter to launch “Gen 2” versions of three Intellivision classic - Shark! Shark!, Astro Smash and Night Stalker.
Retroaction Entertainment, Inc. is working closely with the President of Intellivision Productions, Inc., Mr. Keith Robinson and Dave Warhol, former original Intellivision game designer and owner of development studio, Realtime Associates, Inc. to take these iconic and beloved video game classics and update them for a new generation of gamers
The Kickstarter raised just shy of $8,000. The target was $100,000.

You would think a failed Kickstarter based on modernised Intellivision games, would be enough to put off anyone thinking of trying this again. Surely…?

Enter, Tommy Tallarico…


Oof!​

Tallarico was video game musician, who created music and audio for games such as Cool Spot and Earthworm Jim 2. His most famous audio work is possibly the “Oof!” sound used in the game Roblox, which is played by 43.2 million people a day. But more on this later…

May 2018​

In May 2018 it was announced that Tallarico had acquired the rights to Intellivision and was planning to launch an as yet un-named console. The new company was named Intellivison Entertainment.

In a press release, Tallarico said:

“I grew up playing Intellivision with my parents and younger brother, It was always my favorite system because the games were cutting edge, yet fun and simple to play so our entire family could enjoy them together. I find those important elements to generally be lacking from our industry with the current modern gaming consoles. Our goal is to change that by focusing on bringing all age groups and levels of gamers and non-gamers together while introducing new generations of people to the legacy success of the Intellivision brand”​

A team was announced which included OG Intellivision team members Bill Fisher (as Vice President of Technology), Steve Roney (as Chairman) and David Warhol (as Game Design & Development Group Leader).

Fisher and Roney had worked on games such as B-17 Bomber, Space Spartans, and Warhol on World Series Major League Baseball and the Inty version of Bump and Jump.

Sadly Keith Robinson couldn’t be involved as he sadly passed in June 2017. Tallarico said later on the AtariAge forums that “Keith [Robinson ] reached out to me maybe 3 or 4 years ago and we talked about getting me involved in the company to help on the business & creative side of things. I pitched him the idea of a new console and he loved it. We really didn’t get into too much of the details except for maybe a touch screen instead of a keypad”

Emily Reichbach Rosenthal was announced as Vice President, and heading up the Licensing Division, and longtime Intellivision contractor, tech guru and historian Paul Nurminen was named Vice President of Product Development.

Very little was known about the console at this point, it didn’t even have a name. Full details were said to be released in October 2018, but a Q&A would be held on May 31 on Facebook live

Sadly, the Facebook Live video has now been removed, but Geekdad.com did a write-up of the event the next day. Here’s what Geek Dad gleaned from the session:

  • [It will] Come packaged with as many as 60–80 retro Intellivision games
  • Not meant to be a completely retro unit, it is about moving forward… a brand new system!
  • Will have leaderboards
  • There will be a game store where you can purchase and download new games
  • Console will also be released with at least 7 updated/new games (included with the console)
  • Focus of this console is creating fun, simple, amazing games that everyone can enjoy with simple controls
  • Not meant to compete with systems like the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
  • The first 100,000 people who subscribe at www.IntellivisionEntertainment.com will get the exclusive opportunity to purchase a special and unique Limited Edition version of the console which will not be made available in stores.
And you know what? At this point the console is looking pretty good.

May 2018 was also when crowdfunding for Atari’s new VCS was launched. Looks like it might be Atari vs Intellivision all over again?

October 2018​

At the Portland Retro Gaming Expo on Saturday, October 20th, the console was officially announced. The name of the console was to be Amico. Amico is the masculine Italian word for friend or buddy (Much like Commodore’s Amiga was the feminine Spanish word for friend).

Tallarico said in a press release after the show, "We are creating a console that parents WANT to buy, not that they were asked to buy. Most every game being made for the home consoles these days is created with only the hardcore gamer in mind. We see a world where everyone is interested in playing at home and with friends, but this isn’t currently possible because the barrier to entry is nearly impossible for a non-gamer due to the complexity of the controllers, intricacy of gameplay, expense of the hardware and software and steep learning curve with an unbalanced fun factor for the beginner. Our goal was to create a console that both gamers and non-gamers are able to have fun with and play together. The Intellivision Amico is our answer to this gaping hole we see within the current video game industry.”

Like the 1979 Intellivision, the Amico was to feature a unique controller, based on the original, but with the keypad replaced by a colour touch-screen. The controller would charge using a Qi charger built into the console, and feature Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Speaker, and Microphone. Plus if you wanted more people to join the fun, you could use a smart phone as an additional controller.

The system was set to launch in October 2020.

A trailer was also released alongside the announcement.


The showed new members of the team: Jason Enos (VP of Production) - previously a product manager at Konami, Perry Caplan (Marketing) - previously VP of marketing and corporate affairs at Nintendo, Beth Llewelyn (Public Relations) - previously PR at Nintendo, David Perry (Advisor / Investor) - founder of Shiny Entertainment, Scott Tsumura (Advisor / Japan Liaison) - former president of Nintendo Software, Phil Adam (VP of Business Development) - founder of Spectrum Holobyte, André Lamothe (Hardware Evangelist) and Mike Mika (Hardware / Software Advisor) - president of Digital Eclipse.

Reimagined Games​

If that team line-up wasn’t enough to get you all excited - you should see the games.

All the games announced for the system were to have elements that were exclusive to the Amico, with over 20 said to be available at launch.

Games were going to be standalone, so no expensive DLC, and feature an “Equal Opportunity Gaming” system, which would mean that a younger or inexperienced player could compete with more experience players.

As well as Intellivision Games, others from publishers such as Atari, Imagic and Irem were announced in the Initial Press Release. Over 50 games were included:

  • 10 Yard Fight (Irem)
  • Adventure (Atari)
  • Archon (originally EA)
  • Asteroids (Atari)
  • Astrosmash (INTV)
  • Atlantis (Imagic)
  • Auto Racing (INTV)
  • B-17 Bomber (INTV)
  • Bad Dudes (Data East)
  • Baseball (INTV)
  • Beauty and the Beast (Imagic)
  • Bowling (INTV)
  • Boxing (INTV)
  • Breakout (Atari)
  • Caveman Ninja (Data East)
  • Centipede (Atari)
  • Cloudy Mountain: Crown of Kings (INTV)
  • Demon Attack (Imagic)
  • Dracula (Imagic)
  • Dragonfire (Imagic)
  • Frog Bog (INTV)
  • Horse Racing (INTV)
  • Ice Trek (Imagic)
  • Kung-Fu Master (Irem)
  • Lode Runner (Broderbund)
  • Lunar Lander (Atari)
  • Math Fun (INTV)
  • Microsurgeon (Imagic)
  • Miner 2049er (Big Five Software)
  • Missile Command (Atari)
  • Moon Patrol (Irem)
  • MotoRace USA (Irem)
  • Night Driver (Atari)
  • Night Stalker (INTV)
  • Pong (Atari)
  • R-Type (Irem)
  • Shark! Shark! (INTV)
  • Skiing (INTV)
  • Sky Diver (Atari)
  • SNAFU (INTV)
  • Spelunker (Broderbund)
  • Star Strike (INTV)
  • Super Burgertime (Data East)
  • Swords & Serpents (Imagic)
  • Tempest (Atari)
  • ToeJam & Earl (Sega)
  • Triple Action (INTV)
  • Tron Deadly Discs (INTV)
  • Tropical Angel (Irem)
  • Truckin' (Imagic)
  • Utopia (INTV)
  • Warlords (Atari)
  • Yar’s Revenge (Atari)
Wow! - what a lineup!

Retro game lovers were eager to find out more about this machine, and head-honcho, Tommy Tallarico was keen to share. Where better for this to happen than retro gaming stalwart, AtariAge.

“…we feel we have a lot of aspects that are going to be disruptors for the entire industry.”​

On February 23, 2019, Tallarico posted a message introducing himself on the on the Intellivison boards at AtariAge, and invited questions about the Amico: “I’m hoping I can answer as many questions as I can… so please feel free to ask away. Obviously there will be a LOT I’m unable to discuss (or my marketing & PR folks would KILL ME!)… but I’ll try to answer the best I can.”

The thread eventually went on for 1,422 pages (and eventually spawned its own subforum), and gave an insight into Tallarico’s plans, hopes and dreams for the Amico.

TT was bullish on the potential success of the console - “…we feel our story is extremely unique and one that resonates with the majority of people. And we have one heckuva marketing & PR team (as well as marketing budgets over $10 million). The amazing women who are launching the system with us were the same two people who ran PR & Marketing for Nintendo when they launched the Wii, the Pokemon franchise and the Nintendo DS! So I feel the odds are stacked in our favor.”

TT leaked info about the potential colours of the system - as well as the previously mention Woodgrain effect, he hinted at “Ferrari red” and “Black carbon”.

Although the system wouldn’t be open, in that anyone could upload a game for the system, TT said that “We hand pick each and every developer for the system. So in that regards, it is open to any developer who is talented and has a great idea or concept for the machine. They just need to submit the idea (or game remake) to us. …]”

When asked about physical media in the form of (for example), SD cards, TT said “Yep… but even in a more incredible way that I can’t mention right now because of current patent writing going on as we speak. The physical versions will be so amazing and incredibly unique! I can’t wait for people to learn more!”

The downloadable games wouldn’t be costly “The original games will be very inexpensive. We don’t have the exact pricing… but figure something like buying a SPORTS pack that has like 10 - 15 games for around $5.99 or something.”

In March 2019, Tommy stated “20 games currently in development. 20 more by the end of the year!”

One thing that would happen regularly in the thread is that people would ask Tommy if certain things would be available or happen with the Amico. Tommy would suggest that many of these things could be possible, and eventually would start using the phrase “Wouldn’t that be something?”

Here is the first in a regular series of Wouldn’t that be somethings?

Wouldn’t that be something? (Part 1)​

  • Lost Tutorvision games could appear on the system (INTV were going to launch an educational version of the Intellivision, 16 or so games were made for the system and 14 have been found.) - “Potentially. Not sure yet. They may appear in some form or another via emulation”
  • There could be a Bluetooth Keyboard - “…the system does have Bluetooth so I don’t see why we couldn’t try. Our main focus is on the system itself for now though… something that like would probably be coming during Phase II”

May 2019​

On the 1st of May it was announced that Intellivision were going to be relaunching a new version of Earthworm Jim for the Amico featuring the original team members including David Perry, Tommy Tallarico, Nick Bruty, Mike Dietz, Tom Tanaka, Joey Kuras and the creator Earthworm Jim, Doug TenNapel.

Tallarico said "We have been talking about this moment for many years, it’s a dream come true to finally get the entire team back together. We’re looking forward to sharing a small part of our reunion and initial design meeting with fans from around the world.”

🚩 Red Flag No. 1: Doug TenNapel​

As well as creating Earthworm Jim, Doug TenNapel was also famous for being a massive bigoted homophobe and transphobe. An issue that was not lost on journalist Chris Scullion, who commented on Facebook post about the announcement, in response to someone saying “who doesn’t love Doug TenNapel?”.

Scullion said, “Quite a few people, to be fair. I’m so excited for this game but I’m going to struggle to support him personally.”

Tallarico responded:

“I totally respect everones [sic] right to decide whatever the heck they want. No worries. The reality is if we do the game with Doug, some people may get upset. If we did the game without Doug, other people would be upset. So it’s a no win situation no matter what as it’s absolutely impossible in this day and age to please everyone. But it’s very important to know that although Doug was the creator of the actual character, it was the entire team of 10 of us who created the experience that everyone knows and loves. A complete team effort with no one having more important opinions or visions over anyone else. Making the game with the original team is the only true way to keep it 100% authentic”​

Scullion wasn’t the only one finding TenNapel’s involvement problematic - back on the AtariAge forums, bokay1977 said “…It’s not like the guy made some bigoted statements in private, he is someone who is very actively and publicly pursuing an anti-gay agenda. Very disturbed about this.”

Tommy responded included “Now… that being said… you (and others) are wrong about Doug TenNaple [sic]. Some friendly advice… don’t believe everything you read on the internet. I’ve seen Doug’s statements (and my own) taken completely out of context. I’m not saying I agree with any of his statements… I’m just saying they’ve been taken out of context to form a narrative against him. He may have different politics than you, but he is not a bigot and he’s not pursuing an anti-gay agenda”

“I’d also like to point out (not that I need to), but Intellivision currently has 3 transgender folks working for us. Pretty funny considering that people were comparing me to Hitler because I refused to kick Doug off the team”

In a later post he adds “Our response doesn’t have anything to do with “popular opinion” and everything to do with doing the right thing for the project and the fans. If hard right Republicans demanded that we take a transgendered person off the project… I would have the same response. Get it?”

Wouldn’t that be something! Part 2​

  • On there being a way to publish games developed in GameMaker Studio 2 to Amico? “Potentially. I don’t see why not. Currently most of the games are being done in Unity.”
  • Any plans to update Imagic’s Beauty & The Beast for the Amico? “Absolutely!”
  • PC Engine games on the Amico? “I’m very good friends with the folks who made that system and a lot of the software… so ya never know what we might bring back. :)

June 2019​

An Amico logo was announced as well as the official colours of the console (Galaxy Purple, Obsidian Black, Metallic Pearl, Vintage Woodgrain, GTO Red).

The company were to be revealing the console behind closed doors at the 25th E3 press conference. According to Tommy, "Everyone who saw and played the software absolutely flipped out (in a good way)! "

Hans Ippisch joins the company to head up the European division.

No Violence​

Tommy wanted to make a system that would appeal to everyone so it was important that there would be no violence:

"A recent industry article pointed out that 83% of the video games shown at E3 were “violent” in some way. This has not been the norm over the past 2 decades, but something that was definitely predominant this year. I’m not here to “scold” the game industry… but I would like to point out that while the majority of game developers, publishers and hardware manufacturers seem to be focusing on adult content for the living room this year and next… WE ARE NOT! Also, family friendly and non-violent games doesn’t mean they are just for little kids and can only be presented in an eye-rolling pre-school fashion. Most of our games on the Intellivision Amico are presented for everyone even though NONE of our games are Mature (M) rated or even Teen (T) rated! We are building a system that parents across the world can TRUST 100% of the time. Similar to the game content my generation were playing growing up in the 70’s & early 80’s. Imagine that. What a concept."​

In response to someone suggesting that they wouldn’t be sold until they’d seen it and played it, Tommy claims (bolding my own):

"Absolutely!! Unlike others… we would NEVER ask for money until you had a chance to play the system and the games. What a concept eh? "

And further down the thread “We are NOT doing mobile ports. Every game will be unique and exclusive and specifically built for Amico.”

The game development was going well though, Tallarico told Venture Beat that they currently had “22 playable games.”

July 2019​

Intellivision opens an office in Dubai, adding to their existing offices in Irvine, San Francisco and Nuremberg, Germany.

Tommy states that Williams (Defender, Robotron etc) are on board: (“Williams is WB and WB is 100% on board”)

August 2019​

A new trailer is unveiled for the Amico, which showed gameplay footage of Moon Patrol, Astrosmash, Break Out, Snafu and Shark! Shark!


So far, it's not looking a bad proposition - next time we look at the events leading up to the launch in October 2020*

(*Spoilers: It didn't launch in October 2020)

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Sources