Why the new Earthworm Jim shows Intellivision Amico can serve a niche

Two of gaming’s oldest names are reemerging in the console space as the Atari VCS and Intellivision Amico will be available for purchase sooner rather than later. However, little is known about what their software lineups will look like and what the consoles will offer other than being a potential historical oddity. Even more puzzling is what sort of appeal they will have in the current marketplace that is already heavily saturated by the big three in Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. But the announcement that a new Earthworm Jim game is on the way helps to clear things up for the future of the Intellivision Amico.

This isn’t the simple matter of Intellivision obtaining the rights to the Earthworm Jim series and commissioning a new title, either. Tommy Tallarico and his crew have assembled nearly all of the original developers and creative minds for the upcoming sequel. Whether or not that is a good thing will depend on your thoughts on the often controversial Doug TenNapel, but the sentiment is largely what people want out of retro revival. Regardless of what the quality winds up being, this will be an Earthworm Jim game by the same people that birthed the once-popular character.

Most importantly, this shows that Intellivision has a clear audience in mind for its initial audience. By reviving Earthworm Jim, it is targeting the same sort of retro gaming fans that would have some nostalgia for the Intellivison brand. This is all a logical segment of players to target and would be those that are willing to part with their cash and be an early investor in a new system. However, it’ll need far more than just Earthworm Jim if the console maker want to match its success it had at the height of its popularity, the series was never a system seller.

The new Earthworm Jim can set a precedent

new earthworm jim

In reality, there aren’t many neglected intellectual properties that could serve as a system seller by themselves. However, if Intellivision can play the mediator and bring back many familiar names, it could sell their system based off a number of exclusives rather than just one big one. Earthworm Jim needs to be part of a line of Intellivision exclusive retro revivals rather than the face of the system. It’s a great start, but it can’t be the only thing the system has to offer up initially.

There are two different, yet equally as promising ways that Intellivision can do just that. The first is to follow the precedent that it set with Earthworm Jim, which is reviving a game with the key principles from the originals involved. This is a great method, and one that is ideal in many cases, but it’s also one that isn’t always possible. Some creators won’t want to go backwards and work on an old property as nostalgia isn’t always a driving factor for everyone. Others have left the industry in the years since they released their beloved games or have passed away.

The other scenario is reviving retro titles by giving the reigns to them to indie developers. This isn’t an entirely unheard of practice, and we’ve seen some notable successes in the past few years such as Lizardcube’s Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and DotEmu creating a sequel to the cult classic Windjammers.

Intellivision doesn’t own a ton of memorable franchises themselves, as many Intellivision titles had generic names like Auto Racing, Boxing, Football Super Pro, and Stadium Mud Buggies. Now some might down for a Stadium Mud Buggies sequel, but that isn’t going to move any needles that matter. Instead, Tommy Tallarico will have to leverage his incredible list of industry contracts and make deals to bring back some familiar names from the past.

Intellivision Amico needs exclusives that matter

new earthworm jim

The good news, and the reason why the Intellivision Amico has a real shot at succeeding once it releases in late 2020, is that this isn’t anything the company doesn’t know. When I spoke with Tallarico at E3 last year about the upstart console, he stressed the importance of not just having great games on the system, but ones that will be exclusive. In fact, every single game on the console will be an exclusive.

That’s the type of key differentiators that a system needs to have to be successful in an era filled with multiplatform releases that are on every system and phone. Take a look at the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s libraries, and you’ll see that they’re largely identical for the most part. The Amico, with its lower price point and exclusive library, will look to be a system that complements the others rather than a replacement.

However, that’s not to say that they are aiming for the Intellivision Amico to be a niche product. It’s actually the other way around, as Tallarico believes that simpler games can tap back into the casual marketplace that has largely been forgotten in favor of more hardcore games. But before the console can try to reach the mass market, it needs to find some success with existing gamers and that is exactly where these retro revivals come into play.

By bringing back names like Earthworm Jim (and perhaps Intellivision classics like B-17 Bomber, Astrosmash, Night Stalker, and Buzz Bombers) the Intellivision can get these hardcore fans interested in the initial run. This is a system that can’t be dead on arrival and this is a great way to drum up some initial interest.

The future of the Intellivision Amico is still unclear at the moment, but this is certainly a move in the right direction. Tallarico and the rest of Intellivision clearly have a plan in place to make the new system a success and by delivering exclusive games with name value the company is on the way to doing just that. There are certainly more questions than answers at this point, but it certainly has more momentum and interest than the Atari VCS. Just like Earthworm Jim, that’s a good start that will need to be added to before it releases in 2020.