Intellivision announced a brand new home console in mid October. The Intellivision Amico will be a roughly $160 family-oriented system designed for ease of use, and feature reimagined versions of Atari and Intellivision classics. The Amico is set to release in October 2020. And it will fail because of how poorly planned out it all is.
Intellivision CEO Tommy Tallarico revealed the Amico at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in mid-October. Tallarico had a statement about the system that failed to grasp how his approach is setting it up for failure.
“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.”
Reason #1: The System
Intellivision is planning to sell the Amico for between $149 and $179 in the United States. That sits at roughly half of a brand-new PS4 in 2018, a system that will be seven years old in 2020. A Nintendo 2DS XL can be purchased with Mario Kart 7 for the same suggested price as the Amico. The Amico is cheap, but its not as cheap as a PlayStation or SNES Classic—systems with a lot more nostalgia than the 40-year old Intellivision.
At, say, $160 the Amico also doesn’t give Intellivision a lot of money to play around with for system specs. Assuming they want to sell the device at a profit, it will have to be a rather budget piece of hardware. It won’t be as powerful as the $200 Nvidia Shield TV, and because of a simplified controller, it likely won’t be targeting 3D games. The controllers support wireless Qi charging, have a single directional dial like the original Intellivision, a full-color touch screen, along with force feedback, speakers, a microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, and four tactile buttons—and two are planned to ship with each Amico. All of that, especially the wireless charging, will drive up the price considerably. Thankfully, the Intellivision Amico will be focusing on “reimagined” versions of older titles (read: cheaper), which could be another reason for the system’s failure.
Reason #2: The Games
Intellivision plans for all of the games on the Amico to be exclusive to the system, cost less than $8 each, and have no DLC or microtransactions. Many of the confirmed games are versions of Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Imagic titles. Games like SNAFU, Frog Bog, Pong, Asteroids, Adventure, Tempest, Lode Runner, Dragonfire, Yar’s Revenge, Missile Command, and Super Burgertime have all been confirmed for the Amico. None of these games were shown running on an Amico, and no screenshots have been posted—so we don’t know what they will look like. Given the systems controller and cost, I doubt they will stray too far from the original experience. And speaking of the original experience, a vast majority of these titles are available to play through the Internet Archive.
New games will also be coming exclusively to the Amico, and all of the games will be rated E10+ or lower. It’s admirable, but it won’t sell systems. Intellivision is trying to target young parents with the Amico, although most young parents will have been born years after the 1983 video game market crash. The people Intellivision is attempting to coerce into buying the Amico have no connection to the original system. Nostalgia doesn’t exist at a high enough degree for their “reimagined” classics to grab hold. The NES Classic succeeded because Mario and Link are still relevant, and beloved—as are Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and other franchises that started with the NES. Pong isn’t a franchise that instills nostalgia in people.
Furthermore, kids have no interest in decades-old games. They want Fortnite or whatever streamers and their friends are playing in 2020. They don’t want to be the weird kid playing Frog Bog with their great-aunt Mary during a snowstorm. Kids don’t just want any game console, they want the one that lets them play with friends, and play the games that everybody else is playing. Asteroids isn’t going to become a Twitch sensation and lead millions to the Amico for the title.
Tallarico’s claim that “most every game being made for the home consoles these days is created with only the hardcore gamer in mind” is also demonstrably false and short-sighted. Minecraft, Rocket League, Forza Horizon 4, Super Mario Odyssey, LEGO games, sports games, Starlink, and hundreds of others are more readily available, kid-friendly, and fun. Fortnite skirts the kid-friendly line for some, but its cartoony aesthetic and widespread appeal mean that kids have latched onto it in a huge way.
He also claims that the Amico will help break down barriers for non-gamers, and bring people together through easy to play games, which is something Nintendo and the Jackbox games are already doing quite well. Nintendo has a huge focus on accessible titles, with games like Mario Kart 8 being playable with just a few buttons and having great split-screen multiplayer. The Nintendo Switch is $300, portable, and is a host to a number of accessible, multiplayer games. On the other side of the spectrum are the Jackbox party packs, collections of interactive games that are available on anything from a PS4 to Comcast On Demand. The kicker for Jackbox titles is that all you need to play is an internet browser, with people using laptops and smartphones to connect to the various games each Party Pack includes.
Reason #3: Competitive Markets
The video game market could have a momentous year in 2020. Sony and Microsoft have both commented that they are currently developing new home consoles to succeed the PS4 and Xbox One systems. Those new systems could be out, or coming out, in 2020 which could pull sales away from the Amico. The PS4 and Xbox One could also get price cuts around that time and would make the Amico seem like an even worse deal.
The Intellivision Amico is being targeted at a “gaping hole” that Intellivision thinks is in the industry, but there’s no convincing evidence that that “hole” really exists especially one only it can fill. Mobile and computer gaming are major competition for any dedicated games console. Game consoles get by largely by being multimedia machines, with Netflix and YouTube among many other services available. Games like Pokemon Go, League of Legends, and Fortnite have massive playerbases that likely won’t go anywhere anytime soon.
The Amico doesn’t present itself as an attractive option—it’s offering old games unknown to the target market, no known multimedia roles, and supposedly, no games available on other systems. The Intellivision Amico can’t even be a low-cost alternative to the PS4 and Xbox One, because it won’t offer any of the same games. It’s also not cheap enough to compete with “Classic Editions” of consoles like the NES and SNES, which offer ways to play dozens of old-school games for under $100.
How It Will Happen
These reasons show me that the Intellivision Amico won’t be on the market for more than a year after it launches. Assuming it hits its October 10, 2020 release date, it will face stiff competition—and without a solid reason to exist. The system will have no killer app, no crossover interest with regular games consumers, and games that don’t hold the mass nostalgia that Super Mario Bros. does. The Amico could be facing off against a new generation of consoles, all while the PS4 and Xbox One could receive price cuts bringing them more in line with the new Intellivision. The now niche Amico will be bought in poor numbers, and won’t get much use.
The system was also announced far too early, and without enough concrete information. The announcement video was a minute of jerking off the “innovations” of the original Intellivision—including calling it a 16-bit console, followed by two over-produced minutes of jerking off Amico concepts, followed by a minute or so of jerking off the executive team at Intellivision, while vaguely listing their involvement with various games. No footage or screenshots of games were shown, and there were no bombshell announcements in the trailer. Intellivision’s obscurity after the ’80s only hampers the chance of success, as there is no brand recognition for all but the most deeply ingrained members of the video game community—at least for those under 40.
The young parents of today aren’t afraid of violent video games, or video games in general, the way parents during the Intellivision and Atari 2600 days might have been. Today’s young parents grew up with the NES and SNES, and their 10-year old Fortnite-loving kids were born after Metal Gear Solid 4 came out. There’s no way the Intellivision Amico will be anything but a failure.