The Intellivision Amico Console Is Somehow Still Not Dead

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What an Amico might look like if it existed.

We bet you’d forgotten about sort-of-Intellivision’s disastrous attempted console, the Amico. Revealed in 2020 as this super-cheap, super-exclusive, family-friendly gaming machine, replete with exclusive $8 games, the following years saw the business go through clusterfuck after clusterfuck. And yet it seems it’s still somehow not dead. There’s an attempt to rejuvenate interest in the wholly undesirable project by releasing an app for your telephones. Not one telephone, no. You need at least two. Oh, and wait until you see the prices. Let us take you through the whole sorry tale.

The Amico, much like the also-disastrous but at least briefly extant Ouya, is an Android-driven console that was hoping to surf on people’s nostalgia for the late ‘70s Mattel home gaming device. Its initial fundraising effort saw it raise an astonishing $11.5 million. But since then, it’s been one colossal mess after another.

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A year after the initial announcement, the Amico’s intended price had increased by 50%, its game prices were up to $20 and no longer exclusive. In the meantime, Intellivision’s former CEO, Tommy Tallarico—who bought the rights to the name Intellivision and its games in 2018—had been very online in increasingly unhelpful ways, including following a range of white supremacists on Twitter.

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This non-releasing of a console reached what appeared its nadir in October 2021, when the company tried selling NFTs (remember them?) alongside physical RFIDs of games that didn’t exist for a console that didn’t exist. By this point, those game prices had increased from the proposed $8 to $150 for eight. And you couldn’t play them.

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Jump almost a year onward to June 2022 and everything got a whole lot worse. In February, GI.biz reported that the shambling zombie corpse of the once-loved Intellivision brand was in big financial trouble, saying it was going to struggle to make it to July. In June, emails were sent out to those who had pre-ordered the ethereal machine and were increasingly frustrated about the lack of news: in this it was revealed that another attempt at fundraising had gone (not unexpectedly) disastrously, falling short of an attempted $5 million by $4,940,000.

This came with “significant” job losses, attempts to hawk the IP elsewhere, and remarks about how they were struggling to keep up with an “influx” of refund requests.

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Read More: Intellivision Is Selling NFT Games For A Console That Ain’t Even Out Yet

Since then, both Intellivision and Tallarico have been much more quiet. Neither’s X accounts have updated since April 2022—for the latter, that’s likely an advantage, but for the former it’s not a great look. The official website for the “console” has had one news update since October 2021, which happened in May this year. This took the form of a screed from new CEO, Phil Adam, which instead of saying, “Here’s why we haven’t released the console we pretended to unbox last year,” rather opted for meandering nonsense about being “in the business of creating a living room experience that brings people of various ages together in group play…”

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The post went on to claim the imminent announcement of a “string of new partnerships,” once again suggesting they were just about to—any time now—start licensing out the IP. No further information on that has appeared.

Extraordinarily, the post about having still failed to ship a hardware console went on to say, “We cannot solely be dependent on a traditional hardware console business model.” And then as if that weren’t enough, these incredible words appeared:

We want to assure our fans that shipping a console remains a part of our product strategy.

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For “fans” one can presumably read, “the few people who haven’t demanded a refund.” It’s hard to imagine anyone among them who wasn’t thrilled to read that getting the thing they’d paid for would remain “part of” the company’s plans.

It’s in this post that Adam first reveals the intention to “bring the Amico experience to other hardware platforms, starting with mobile devices.”

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“Amico Home,” he said, “will dramatically reduce the hardware footprint needed to enjoy Amico games.” No shit! Putting out Android games on Android phones sure doesn’t require a whole other console, although does perhaps somewhat fall short on the promise of its bespoke controllers and family-focused living room euphoria. (Although that footprint isn’t as reduced as you might think…)

“Those who supported Intellivision early on,” he said, “helped set the foundation for all that we have been able to achieve.” Sadly he didn’t find room to list exactly what those achievements might be.

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What’s Amico Home like to use?

And now we can bring things entirely back to where we started, and an update on the Amico’s fundraising page that appeared on Tuesday, November 22. (Thanks Brandon Sheffield!) Not shared on the official site, nor on social media, Phil Adam brings the news that the mobile app he promised was arriving in “the coming weeks” some six months ago is finally here! Sort of! In beta!

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Leap to your non-Apple (for now) electronic telephone and you can now install Amico Home (Early Access) for Android. I just did, and let me tell you, this is one janky piece of crap. Before I could even click on one of the plain-text options, a screen called “TIPS AND TRIVIA – Cool things you might like to know” appeared to inform me that “Amico Home requires a separate controller per player to operate. Use mobile devices running the free Amico Controller app or real Amico controllers.” And then stayed there. Impossible to close.

Because, seriously, to use this you need another Android phone to act as a controller. I swear to God, I did this for you. And to be fair, it hooked the two phones together without even having to ask for permissions or run any setup. (Is that good? I’m really not sure.) However, I cannot tell you how stupid it feels to control the screen on one phone by moving a virtual analogue stick on another phone. Nor how unbelievably frustrating and fiddly those controls are.

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A cartoon alien sticks out of a phone and points at a monitor showing Amico Home.

According to the update page, a whopping two games are available to play right now, with an eye-watering two more due soon. Yes, that’s four games. Currently available are Astrosmash and Missile Command, which yes, you’re right, are original Intellivision games from 1981 and 1980 respectively, with reworked graphics that look like freeware from around 1998. And of course, both are free to play during this early beta perio… HAHAHA! I was joking! THEY’RE $15 EACH!

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Sorry, but that was my limit. I’d take a photograph of how stupid it looked spread across two mobile phones on my desk, but I’m already using two mobile phones so don’t have a camera to hand.

Astonishingly, this increasingly embarrassing attempt to keep their nightmare alive has driven someone to the point of writing these words:

For many households that already have a family tablet, Amico HomeTM is an affordable way to enjoy family gaming entertainment. We are delighted to invite you to join the family gaming revolution today with Amico HomeTM!

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This is, to be clear, bullshit. It’s not affordable to create a system where you need to have a tablet and a telephone in order to be able to play a port of a 40-year-old arcade game, and then charge fifteen bucks per game! If you’re a family with a tablet, I’ve good news for you: the Google Play Store has fifty squillion free games you can download and enjoy right now, and you don’t even need to use your toaster and fridge to control them.

(Those who bought into the NFT idiocy will be able to redeem those RFID chips against games for this clumsy app nonsense, you know, when those games are released.)

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But there’s good news! According to this rambling update, “The release of Amico HomeTM [sic] puts us on a better footing to attract such investment or to eventually fund manufacturing from the proceeds of Amico HomeTM game sales.”

Oh my god, no. No it won’t. This bewilderingly idiotic two-phone system for playing four-decade-old games at $15 a pop, that isn’t being advertised anywhere outside of an update to the remaining marks who backed the project (who should get the games free anyway), isn’t going to make any money at all. This company has managed to make releasing Android games on Android phones into something unmanageably complicated, expensive and unpleasant. It’s going to be a disaster. As has every other aspect of this years-long debacle.

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Oh, you can still “pre-order” an Amico! Incredibly, it’s—um—free to do so. Although when it definitely comes out, it’ll now be $290 with one controller (and presumably a bit empty space on top) or $340 with two. I wouldn’t!

We have, of course, reached out to Amico, and will be delighted to update when they get back to us.

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