The Curious Case of the Intellivision

In the late 70s, there was one, and only one, big-time video game console – the Atari 2600 Video Computer System, which moved almost 30 million units during its lifetime. There were a couple of mildly successful challengers – the Fairchild Channel F and the Magnavox Odyssey2, both of which had long lives on store shelves in spite of only selling about a million units each and having small game libraries.

Finally, in 1980, Mattel Electronics decided to enter the fray with their new console, the Intellivision. This system was 16-bit. YES, 16-bit. But it still looks like a 1980 system, which shows that it’s not bits available that matters as much as the processor being used. Many people of my general age are familiar with SEGA’s Genesis ads that attacked the inferior NES. This advertising strategy was actually pioneered by Mattel, which constantly ran television and print ads comparing the Intellivision to the 2600. It didn’t work as well for Mattel as it later would for SEGA – in spite of the high awareness among gamers of the “war” the Intellivision only sold 3 million units during its initial run.

When the market crashed, individuals within Mattel started a new company and bought all of the Intellivision assets from Mattel. This is when things became somewhat unique. Unlike other machines killed by the market crash, the Intellivision, under new ownership, returned to store shelves in 1985. When this avenue dried up they focused on mail order business. 30-some new games were released post-crash. Finally, the system was discontinued for good in 1990, giving the system an impressive decade-long run. Even more impressive is that the system sold another 3 million units under the new management, giving it a very respectful (if undeserved) lifetime total of 6 million.


3 responses to “The Curious Case of the Intellivision

  1. I can’t believe you made this whole post without adding the one thing that might actually widen your potential audience……..

    Where’s the youtube link?!

  2. are the post-crash games pretty hard to come by?

    also… i remember playing an intellivision once when i was a small child. i remember being enamored by the controller and physical appearance of the system, but quickly shut it off in favor of the nes.

  3. did you title this post after mr. plimpton’s novel?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s