When the world isn’t being bombarded with retro plug & play minis, the powers-that-be are still finding ways to cater to the vast market of yesteryear today. Enter the Intellivision Amico, a system slated for release on 10/10/2020 that proposes the cutting edge of technology with the sensibilities of a more innocent time in gaming.
With an MSRP of between $150 – $180, the Amico hardware should be pretty on point with fellow consoles of the time but where they are hoping to set themselves apart from the competition is through the software; the team behind the system claims it will be incredibly affordable (between $2.99 – $7.99 per title).
Perhaps even more interesting is that unlike the current market trends, this unit is slated to come with several titles preinstalled to the system’s internal memory; the remainder of the library (some 20 additional exclusive titles) available for purchase through their online storefront. Don’t let the digital distribution software model fool you, however, as the team promises there will be no microtransactions here, no in-app purchase opportunities or DLC. The initial investment means ownership of the full game.
From the looks of the renderings released so far, two controllers may be a part of the package (another trend that seems to have all but evaporated in the modern gaming landscape) with the capability of 8-player connectivity. These wireless Bluetooth units appear to attempt to combine both the charm and rough layout of the original Intellivision design but with a device interface familiar to just about every human being on the planet by now: the smartphone. While the circular control pad and side buttons remain faithfully reproduced, the number-pad made famous by the original and ColecoVision is being replaced with a full color 3.5” touchscreen display. Let us hope they manage to make better use of this concept than did Nintendo with the Wii U.
The last serious point of contention comes in the form of the software catalog; which so far promises two key things: Nothing beyond an E10+ ESRB rating and nothing of the 3D variety. Initially this seemed a major shortcoming of the console; limiting one’s self to so young an age demographic has been something even the kid-centric Nintendo has been cautious against and in fact has remained the domain of brands focused on learning like V-Tech.
However, after looking more carefully at what the company is attempting to do here, the rating situation does make more sense. They are aiming to appeal to the sensibilities of the earlier days of video gaming. It was truly an era of 2D goodness; single screen arcade action, platformer adventures. These didn’t lack graphic violence to appeal to a particular demographic, they did so because it wasn’t necessary to be fun.
I personally have great admiration for 2D gaming. While it never actually went away (there have been 2D games steadily developed for just about every platform ever made), a system that specializes in the sprite-based universe will truly fill a unique niche’; one that keeps many of us collecting games for our Sega Genesis and NES. One that also continues to be be proven with the success of retro plug and play minis; a segment that, at least in Nintendo’s case, proved to be in greater demand than that of their current generation hardware.
A quick browse of the Amico’s proposed games library reveals many, many familiar titles; games like Bad Dudes, Burgertime, R-Type, Swords & Serpents, Spelunker and even ToeJam and Earl. The interesting thing going on here though is that they promise no ports. Or another way of saying it- these games are exclusive to the Amico, whether that means unique content, full remakes or even completely new versions (reboots) of beloved franchises. This, in and of itself, should be interesting.
All in all, and especially considering the team assembled to see this project to fruition, the Intellivision Amico promises a unique choice in what will likely be the next generation of home console hardware. While nearly 2-years out to the day is an eternity in this industry, we’re hoping it’s a 24-months filled with steady updates and hopefully a lot of actual gameplay footage. We’ve seen far too many times in failed projects like the Coleco Chameleon the potential for announcements like this to be little more than wishful thinking. Acting front-man Tommy Tallarico (President of Intellivision Entertainment) has been on an absolute mission in assuring the masses this is anything but vaporware and there’s a lot of comfort to be taken there.
Since you’re here on Old School Gamer, you obviously possess an appreciation for retro gaming to some capacity so further discussing the charms of a modern retro HDMI TV box is akin to preaching to the converted. Smaller companies face an uphill battle against giants like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft but there’s no discounting the value of old school sensibilities in video gaming. In fact, it could be argued those are timeless.