New Mattel Intellivision Article on Gamasutra - Loguidice and Barton

Bill Loguidice's picture

Gamasutra has just posted the fifth of six entries from me and Matt Barton in the "A History of Gaming Platforms" series, this time on the Mattel Intellivision, here. This was one of my favorite entries to write in the book this series is based off of, so I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. As a bonus, I've included here on Armchair Arcade the additional captions and images that Gamasutra chose not to include (I think I again improved image quality - by the way, those screenshots are DIRECT video captures straight from an Intellivision II, NOT from an emulator, and everything else of course is also straight from my personal collection). The next and presumably final entry will be on the Atari 8-bit. Enjoy and I'd love to hear some feedback, as I think it ranks right up there with the best overall articles ever written on platform (said with all due modesty and respect, of course ;-) ).

The unused images and all the captions (used and unused):





An Intellivision II Master Component with attached Intellivoice Speech Synthesis Module and cartridge.


The inside of a 1981 Mattel Electronics Intellivision catalog, showing the original Master Component and various boxed games in their respective Network colors.

Closeups of the infamous Intellivision controller. Despite allowing for an impressive 16 possible movement directions, the control disc was often criticized for its awkwardness with many games. Many add-ons of dubious value were created to purportedly enhance the control disc's functionality, like the Intellivision Attachable Joysticks shown to the far right.

A page from a 1980 Mattel promotional flyer advertising the supposedly forthcoming Intellivision Keyboard Component and some of its software.

Some of the platform's famous controller keypad overlays were quite useful, like those for Truckin', Space Battle, and Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, shown in the top row, while others, like Burgertime, Bump 'n' Jump, and Lock 'n' Chase, shown in the bottom row, were more for cosmetics than to serve a particular need.

An Intellivision II with ECS module, keyboard and music keyboard, along with an Intellivoice module.

While certainly not the most powerful system pre-The Great Videogame Crash, the Intellivision's visuals and sound at their best could hold their own against any other system of the time. A direct screenshot from Thunder Castle is shown, which was completed a few years before its 1986 release date.


Sports games were a system staple, but several excellent shooters also appeared on the Intellivision, including Imagic's Demon Attack (1982).

Thin Ice (1986, but finished earlier), was a fun interpretation of the little known Data East arcade game, Disco No.1 (1982), replacing the disco dancing boy with Duncan the Penguin.

The Intellivision was home to a number of dungeon crawling games, including Tower of Doom (1987), which featured multiple player characters to choose from and 10 different adventures.

Imagic released several original games for the Intellivision, including Safecracker (1983), shown here, casting the player as a spy attempting to recover various items.

The advanced ECS-only World Series Major League Baseball (1983) took a diferent visual approach than other Intellivision baseball games, with multiple camera angles versus a single overhead view.


The INTV System III featured nearly the same design as the original Master Component from Mattel.

The Intellivision can be an easy and fun system to collect for with a variety of loose and boxed games readily available for purchase and play on the various systems.

Joe Zbiciak's Tetris clone, 4-Tris (2000), is one of a handful of modern homebrew titles for the Intellivision.

The Intellivision had new games in development right up to the closure of INTV, with the unfinished classic computer conversion of Choplifter!, shown here, and the finished, but unreleased, Deep Pockets: Super Pro Pool & Billiards, both featuring 1990 copyright dates.

And what Gamasutra used in their promos:

After a discussion over at AtariAge, this gentleman came out of the proverbial woodwork to say he was doing work around and in fact had an original Keyboard Component! Unicorn indeed and much appreciated by me to actually get some first hand accounts about the thing, rather than just marketing slicks and contemporary press! By the way, he also offered up that the cassette drives have proven to be very unreliable even on the rare chance a unit is found with one "working"...


Joined: 10/25/2006
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Well, supposedly a disassembly is taking place now, including getting working emulation:

So, it's not a total loss. Again, with only about 4,000 produced and many successfully recalled and many others no doubt trashed, there's probably less than a dozen of them in active circulation. So yeah, it would be great to have more active "discovery and analysis" out there, but at least we have a few things.

Thanks for the update!

take care,

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Calibrator wrote:

Which is a pity as such an exorbitant price probably prevents the successful bidder
to seriously tinker with the item - opening and taking pictures for example.

It'll be locked and collect dust in a vault.

This is something that has bothered me for a long time, and I'm still not sure what collectors should do. I like the idea of having two models of something, so you can carefully preserve one and play with the other. It's nice to buy something that is still in the original box, but I see little reason to keep it that way yourself as long as you keep it all in good condition. I'd hate to see somebody buying a rare game console just to let the 6-year old shove a hamburger into the cartridge slot.

Apparently, the Japanese tend to be more diligent about preserving the condition of games and packaging than Americans, though I just have Kohler's word for that at this point.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Defender of the Crown

For those interested, here are some nifty screenshots of the in-progress Intellivision conversion of Cinemaware's "Defender of the Crown", once again showing how good the platform can be even though it's late 1970's technology:

Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Intellivision Productions

The Intellivision article was mentioned at a bunch of places (thanks!), but one of my personal favorites is from the guys over at Intellivison Lives: , particularly since there's several of the more or less original Intellivision guys there. It's real validation to me that they were positive about the work...

Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.


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