As an Amico console Founder’s Edition backer, I was among those privy to an 11PM EDT email on Monday, May 22, 2023, from Phil Adam, CEO of Intellivision Entertainment. I’ll post the email below for posterity, but essentially it indicated the hardships the company has gone through in the past 18 months and how they’re going to primarily focus on IP and publishing games, with the hope that they’ll eventually be able to release the Amico console, which had its first of several set launch dates back in October of 2020.
This, of course, was no surprise to anyone following the Amico saga. It was clear the company had mismanaged its funds and was mismanaged in general, leading to Tommy Tallarico stepping down as CEO in early 2022 and going silent on the project after several embarrassing run-ins with the public. Between the first public announcements in May 2018 to now, several new platforms, including consoles and handhelds, have been released, which makes the Amico issues and all of the funds raised from various sources – including Founder’s Edition consoles and the infamous empty game boxes (which I sadly have as well) – all the more frustrating.
A little before this new announcement, Intellivision Entertainment sold off their M Network game properties to the current version of Atari, who, for all their own issues, seems to be on a far better path, acquiring quite a few new classic IP and actually having released a new console, the VCS. (And again, despite the VCS predictably not selling well, credit where credit is due for not only releasing it, but continuing to support it.)
Shortly after this new announcement, BBG Entertainment acquired two of Intellivision Entertainment’s most valuable IP in ASTROSMASH and SHARK! SHARK!. However, as quoted from the press release: “…any preexisting activations of the original versions of ASTROSMASH® and SHARK! SHARK!™ as well as any versions for future platforms from Intellivision®.” So basically anything that’s already been licensed out, like the two Intellivision collections on Evercade, Intellivision Entertainment will still get whatever is still coming to them (and more importantly, Evercade doesn’t have to stop selling the cartridges), and obviously, the Amico or (ahem) any other console Intellivision Entertainment may put out in the future can still feature those games.
What I find most fascinating about this is that there are essentially three owners for ASTROSMASH in one form or another: Atari, BBG, and Intellivision. Quite unusual to say the least.
Anyway, the big takeaway from the first public Intellivision Entertainment announcement in more than a year (!) is that they still hope to keep working on and possibly releasing the Amico console, but it’s not at the top of their stated list and they don’t have the resources at the moment to push it forward. What’s at the top of the list is to release their games and possibly controllers for mobile (“Amico Home”). Presumably, this is a strategy to maintain positive cash flow, although we well know how competitive the mobile market is and how big of an ask entering that market and generating income is. Same thing for all of the other existing platforms.
What those of us who contributed to the Founder’s Edition will supposedly get (hopefully bonus points for those of us who also got the game boxes) is some type of priority access in the “Amico Club.”
Honestly, unless those of us who already gave them money will get free digital games of somewhat equivalent value as part of the Amico Club, I don’t think much of the priority access or discounts. I’m certainly not going to give them more money for anything until I get the console and games I already paid for. I know, however, that a handful of others feel differently as the Amico does have a small, but motivated group of superfans even after all that has happened.
More importantly, it’s clear that the console is not coming out in 2023, pushing us ever further past the first target launch date of October 10, 2020. Assuming a miracle happens and Amico Home and Amico Club do well and they generate steady revenue, the earliest I can see that creating enough of a cushion for a console release (manufacturing, shipping, spares, support, hosting the game store, etc.) would be some time in 2025, even if it were a modest run of 5,000 units.
Of course, the Amico would have already been technically dated on its initial launch date, let alone all of those years later, but since its essentially an Android-based box, presumably they can at least upgrade the processor should it ever reach that point. The main appeal of the console was its unusual screen-based controllers and focus on local multiplayer, so potentially, that can still have some appeal even a few years from now along with some internal tweaks. But frankly, if the console and games haven’t been finished nearly three years past the initial target launch date, there can’t be much optimism that having more time will improve the situation.
Here’s the official email:
The last 18 months, since becoming the CEO, has been an extremely difficult time for the Intellivision business. A long list of disappointments from both inside and outside of the company had to be taken head on. During this time we laid off a large portion of our staff, restructured our management team, and began the process of reevaluating every aspect of the business, which included the path that lay ahead for Intellivision.
What we have distilled down from countless hours of self assessment is that we are, or more accurately, wish to be, in the business of creating a living room experience that brings people of various ages together in group play. It is the experience between people, sitting in the same room, that will be our primary measure of success. This, first and foremost, comes from offering great content.
As an entertainment business, we realize that creating great content requires world class partners and a focus on strategies where we can effectively achieve the necessary level of excellence to succeed. To this end, we will be announcing a string of new partnerships that will not only help bring fun and innovative content that captures the Amico experience, but also bolsters and celebrates our content’s appeal by (1) licensing our IP to development partners who have product pedigrees that are creatively aligned and best poised to bring something great to market, (2) leveraging our IP in ways that ensures delivery on Amico but additionally expands our content to entirely new audiences Intellivision would otherwise be unable to reach and (3) acquiring new IP that embodies Amico and fits our strategic focus. This will include licensing IP for other platforms where it makes sense to do so.
Our commitment to delivering a unique and innovative platform that brings people together has not wavered. What has changed is our philosophy on how to deliver that experience. The business environment is quite different from what it was in 2018 when the original Intellivision business plan was put together. We cannot solely be dependent on a traditional hardware console business model. The cost and time to scale such a business is too great. We must be more creative in how we deploy our intended entertainment experience – not only delivering a better experience for our customers, but also reducing the time and cost to scale the business.
We want to assure our fans that shipping a console remains a part of our product strategy. The development and hands-on testing of our pilot units have been a successful step forward. As a testament of this progress, we are pleased to share with you this video of a father and son playing Shark! Shark! on one of the pilot units in their home!
As part of our expanded strategy, we also plan to bring the Amico experience to other hardware platforms, starting with mobile devices, under the name Amico Home. Amico Home will dramatically reduce the hardware footprint needed to enjoy Amico games and provide more developers the opportunity to explore the creative potential of in-room multiplayer games with our innovative physical and smartphone controllers. This broadening of the talent pool will bring new ideas and gaming that will shape the future of Intellivision and our place in the market.
We are excited for this future and what it means for bringing the Amico experience to the public. Those who supported Intellivision early on helped set the foundation for all that we have been able to achieve, and we are truly thankful to you all. In the coming weeks, those that have maintained a deposit will be able to sign in and verify their spot on the priority list (Amico Club List). The Amico Club List will be used as the primary mechanism to prioritize access to special products, early access to new games and other unique offers. More details to follow.
Again, we thank you for your patience and support as we chart a new course for Intellivision and establish our own unique position in the vast and vibrant video game industry.
Phil Adam, CEOIntellivision Update May 2023