The Intellivision was created by Mattel Electronics and released nationwide in 1980 (the system was previously test marketed in the Fresno, CA area in December 1979), with Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack as the pack-in game. In late 1982, the pack-in was changed to Astrosmash. Most of the marketing campaign focused on comparing the Intellivision to the Atari 2600, demonstrating the Intellivision's graphical and technological superiority.
The console had its cartridge slot on the right side of the system, and the top was utilized for controller storage. The controllers were permanently attached with coiled cords, and featured a numeric keypad, a circular pad that detected 16 directions, and four rubber buttons on the sides of the controller. Most games came with small plastic overlays that could be inserted into the controller over the keypad, to help players learn and remember game controls. One disadvantage to the controller was its inability to use the disc and keypad inputs at the same time, making "run & gun" tactics difficult for games that used the disc for movement and the keypad for firing. The most popular solution to this problem involved using one controller's disc to move and the other controller's keypad to shoot. The controller's side buttons posed another problem, as they were very stiff and unresponsive, making games that utilized them difficult, and extended gameplay painful on thumbs.
Although the Intellivision was more powerful, it was never as popular as the Atari 2600, which had more popular games because developers were more interested in exploring the possibilities of the 2600's capabilities. Due to excessive competition in the console market that brought about the "video game crash" of 1983, game sales for the Intellivision tanked, and in 1984 Mattel Electronics was shut down by its parent company Mattel. The rights to the Intellivision name brand and its games were eventually bought by INTV Corporation, who made new consoles and introduced new games slowly over time. Production on Intellivision consoles ceased permanently in 1991.
The Intellivoice was a peripheral developed by Mattel Electronics in conjunction with General Instruments. It used G.I.'s SP0256 Narrator speech synthesis chip. Released in 1982, the peripheral sold very poorly and as such only 5 games were ever supported. The original retail price of the unit was $100.
General Instrument CP1610 16-bit microprocessor CPU running at 894.886 kHz (i.e., slightly less than 1 MHz)
1456 bytes of RAM:
- 240 × 8-bit Scratchpad Memory
- 352 × 16-bit (704 bytes) System Memory
- 512 × 8-bit Graphics RAM
7168 bytes of ROM:
- 4096 × 10-bit (5120 bytes) Executive ROM
- 2048 × 8-bit Graphics ROM
160 pixels wide by 196 pixels high (5×2 TV pixels make one Intellivision pixel)
16 color palette, all of which can be on the screen at once
8 sprites. Hardware supports the following features per-sprite:
- Size selection: 8×8 or 8×16
- Stretching: Horizontal (1×, 2×) and vertical (1×, 2×, 4× or 8×)
- Mirroring: Horizontal and vertical
- Collision detection: Sprite to sprite, sprite to background, and sprite to screen border
- Priority: Selects whether sprite appears in front of or behind background.
3 channel sound, with 1 noise generator (audio chip: General Instrument AY-3-8910)