Intellivision Is Back (And Why We’re Excited)
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It was revealed this week that Intellivision would be bursting back onto the scene with a new home console. While details are scarce, Tommy Tallarico, who is known for his work as a composer, the creation of Video Games Live and now as the CEO of Intellivision Entertainment, is confident that the console will establish itself as innovative, just as Intellivision consoles of the past had.

"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,” said Tallarico, which gives a sense of his passion and the reasoning behind his decision to acquire the rights from Mattel.

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It just might work out, too, although what role the system will play within the industry is hard to predict. Atari has just launched a crowdfunding campaign for a modern version of its retro system, called the Atari VCS. That campaign apparently caused problems for Indiegogo, as the increase in traffic that came with the availability to pre-order the console caused some stress. Nintendo’s releases of the NES Classic and the Super NES Classic, and their subsequent popularity, seem to hint at a market that sees value in both the past and future of games. Perhaps an Intellivision system really could strike a perfect hybrid between retro and modern.

Tallarico has the right idea when he talks about the spirit of Intellivision of yore. The system was actually known for a lot of firsts. To note, he mentions the early forays into digital distribution, the inclusion of voice and speech in games, and the decision to license professional sports leagues; these were ambitious decisions that are now commonplace in the industry

I am also forced to consider the weird controller for the Intellivision. Going by its name and appearance, one could guess that the system sought a spot in every family’s entertainment system, evoking the idea of “television” where it could. While the controller doesn’t necessarily come off as ergonomic or suited for hardcore gaming, the Nintendo Wii proved that a simple remote reminiscent of the TV remote (hence Wiimote) could still have wide ranging appeal. Now, the original Intellivison controller wasn’t simple because it did have 15 buttons, but it managed to blend familiarity with innovation and that’s admirable.

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I suppose the company was onto something, too, because the system went on to sell over three million units in three years. Intellivision, in such a short time, was also able to appeal to prominent developers like Activision and the company was reportedly more and more profitable with each subsequent year. Then, the video game market crash happened and Intellivision didn’t manage to survive – most game consoles didn’t. It’s hard to imagine what might have been were it not for that crash. What direction might have Intellivision gone had it continued? Would it have gotten stuck in a rut or continued to grow in clever ways?

I like to think it would have been the latter because my guess, as a fan of gaming and not a reliable market analyst, is that it’s the spirit that should remain and not necessarily all of the old design choices. Someone who would know a thing or two about that spirit is David Warhol who designed more than 25 games for Intellivision. He will be leading Intellivision’s new Game Design and Development Group. It’ll be interesting to see how his ideas fit in with the modern era of gaming.

It is my hope that we see all new things from Intellivision. I can’t imagine they will position themselves as direct competitors to Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One but that is, mostly, because new contenders rarely enter the arena and do well. But, hey, it’s not unprecedented. Giants, like Microsoft, rise and giants, like Sega, fall. Another possibility is that a new system could attempt to compete with Nintendo whose consoles are sometimes thought of as the “second console” because Sony and Microsoft share so many similarities. A unique “second console” could very well be an option. Or Intellivision could create something like the Atari VCS which definitely appears to have a stronger footing in the past albeit with better graphics which is not a bad thing at all.

Naturally, all I can do is speculate at this point but as a huge fan of retro games and a bit of an eccentric collector, Tallarico’s announcement has me excited for what’s next. True, the system may not amount to much and might just end up being a cool collectible but I can’t see any reason to be pessimistic at this point because, well, I know very little. Right now, there’s just raw potential, and I have to wait for October 1 which is when more details are supposed to be revealed about the console.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie
@BenjaminMaltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 06/06/2018

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