What does it mean to be the “year of” something? It doesn’t mean that thing is the highest selling. Within the video game sphere 2020 was the year of the PlayStation 5 even though the Nintendo Switch sold more units, because the PlayStation 5 captured the attention of the gaming world and became an object of desire among the frenzied masses who battled bots and scalpers more vicious than any fungus zombies or Norse gods to try and get one. It doesn’t mean that thing is the most popular. 2021 was arguably the year of Xbox and Game Pass even though the PlayStation and Nintendo brands remained stronger, but Xbox gained relative position in the market and people’s mindshare, garnering positive attention for strong game releases and additions to their service and forcing Sony to react by planning a similar service for its own system. Instead I’d argue that to be the “year of” something that thing has to have the best year relative to its starting position and make the most positive progress in the market and public opinion compared to where it began.
With that definition in mind it seems all but certain that 2022 will be the year of the Amico.
The Amico starts the year with several powerful advantages. The first is that very few people have heard of it. It’s easy to make impressive relative progress when you’re starting from ground zero. On a relative basis selling a single Amico system would increase its market share more, as a percentage, than Sony or Microsoft could by selling millions of machines into a market that already contains tens of millions of PlayStations and Xboxes. Amico also has the advantage of having a dreadful reputation that would be easy to improve. Among the small but dedicated group that already knows that the Amico exists just having a mediocre performance would create a massive improvement in the machine’s perception, since outlets like Ars Technica are already predicting its failure and the collapse of Intellivision, the company that plans to release it.
But it’s more than just how easy it will be to improve its relative standing that makes Amico all but guaranteed to win the remaining 352 days in 2022. It’s the product itself and the company behind it. The Amico is a true disruptor in the marketplace. While its competitors are focused on cutting edge graphics and the fool’s errand of “photorealism” the Amico offers up the comfortable and pleasing aesthetics of the mid-2010s cell phone market, considered by someone, somewhere, probably, to be the pinnacle of gaming aesthetics. While other companies have foolishly wasted money on the fad of online gaming the Amico has the vision to offer only in person gameplay, which is bold and disruptive in a pandemic stricken world where many are afraid to interact with others. Is the Amico the product that will finally coax the population out of hiding to spread joy and saliva droplets with their loved ones? You can’t prove it isn’t.
The Amico has also disrupted console and controller design. While Xbox and Nintendo try for a subtle, modern, angular, look that blends into your living space and the PlayStation 5 evokes visions of the future with its spacecraft like sweeps of black and white plastic, the Amico proudly looks like a Fisher-Price footbath for aliens, complete with even more bright LEDs than the Wii annoyed owners with a decade and a half ago whenever it needed one of its frequent software updates. Even the Amico’s controller is a market disrupter, eschewing such pointless features as dual analog sticks and sleek ergonomic design to offer up something that looks like the result of an illicit affair between a garage door opener and a cell phone from 2007. It doesn’t even have face buttons, choosing instead to marry the much loved pleasures of touch screen action gaming to the smooth controls of its 64 direction sliding disc, previously seen on the original Intellivision, the 3DS (kind of) and nothing else ever even though it’s been around for 40 years. A true disruptor doesn’t just make something new, they take something old that nobody liked and make it irresistible.
Amico is also disrupting game design by zigging while the rest of the industry zags. As games become more expansive and demanding of players times in the hopes of creating long term revenue streams Amico is shrinking game design back down to the kinds of experiences that were provided in the 4 kilobyte roms of the 1970s. Dying Light 2 may take 500 hours to experience everything but who has that kind of time? Wouldn’t you rather play a game where you’re bored and ready to move on after just a few minutes? In addition to encouraging people to get together by not having any online Amico is encouraging people to put down games and go outside or pick up a book by offering only tedious, repetitive, experiences we’ve all had before presented in an outdated graphical style that will have your jaw hitting the floor when you realize that yes, this is a game released in 2022 and it looks like that. If you’ve ever played an old cell phone game and said “I wish this cost ten times as much and could be played on my TV” then congratulations, you want an Amico! Amico will also keep greedy developers away from the system by charging 50% of the purchase price on their online storefront. This is not a system for game makers who are only in it to turn a profit, this is a system strictly for those who are in it for the love of the game and a desire to support Intellivision.
Parents can feel safe buying an Amico because unlike other systems it has no physical games for little Timmy to beg for in the store. Tired of walking past the video game section in Walmart and having your child point and beg at the latest and greatest? That won’t happen with Amico, because all Amico games must be purchased online and even the physical products have to be validated and downloaded with an Internet connection. And Timmy won’t be excited by new releases in store because Amico conveniently bakes the store into the OS home screen, differentiating between games you own and those you don’t own yet only by fading the icon of your future purchases. Keep the game begging at home, in private, where it belongs with the power of Amico.
But Amico saves its greatest disruption not for games or console design but for capitalism itself. Many consoles famously sell for as low a price as possible to expand their userbase and make their profit selling games. Amico, instead, acts like a true luxury brand, charging premium prices for bargain basement components and making its money up front with each console sale. Some console makers, especially Nintendo, have been accused of keeping supply low in order to drive demand and make people snap up any systems on store shelves so they won’t miss out. Amico takes that one step further by not releasing any product at all, surely driving consumer desire to a fever pitch. People are paying double or triple MSRP for PS5 systems that are all but impossible to find in stores but with Amico even the scalpers don’t have any, meaning that demand can build to a true fever pitch. Despite the fact that Intellivision’s COO has announced that they are currently planning to formulate a plan to release the system (the only thing better than a plan is a planned plan to plan a plan) there are rumors that Intellivision might not release a console at all, ever. This would be a masterstroke of capitalism, driving demand absolutely through the roof. That demand could then be turned into pure profit through various means such as Intellivision’s innovative idea of making every game an NFT, helping destroy the planet and driving people back indoors to play Amico before they get bored in five minutes and decide that death by heatstroke is preferable to yet another round of Shark Shark!
Whether the Amico releases or not and whether it sells its projected 1 to 2 million units by the end of the year or only sells the 6,000 or so that have been pre-ordered, one thing’s for sure; there’s nowhere to go but up. Or at least to the side. It’d be pretty hard to go down at this point. Even just ceasing operations would probably prevent them from being clowned on as much. Because of this limitless potential for growth and very low downside 2022 is all but guaranteed to be the year of Amico. Hold on to your butts, people, it’s going to be a thrilling, schadenfreudy, ride!