By bigsocrates 4 Comments
I want to be clear that the true victims of the Intellivision Amico saga are the investors who got swindled out of their cash and the pre-order customers who were promised refunds but didn't get them. Intellivision lied about a lot of things on its way to becoming the biggest phantomware flameout in modern gaming history, and it made off with millions of dollars via shady crowdfunding campaigns that weren't good investments even if the company had succeeded.
But they're not the only victims.
Frank Cifaldi does a good job of discussing how the Intellivision IP was salvaged and painstakingly reassembled and maintained by a group of dedicated former employees who truly loved the system and did their best to preserve it. (I'm posting the first tweet in the thread.)
The TLDR is that a group of former Intellivision employees led by Keith Robinson bought the rights, spent the next couple decades carefully maintaining them and releasing the Intellivision Lives package including lots of bonus material like unreleased games and commericals on a variety of platforms, and then Tommy Talarico swooped in after Robinson died and took control of this passion project (which wasn't a living for these guys) only to blow it up in a spectacular mushroom cloud of grift and hubris. Now the remnants of the company he founded and has been ejected from is selling off the IP in parts to stay afloat, and any package like Intellivision Lives! will be very difficult to assemble in the future.
On the one hand you can fairly argue that these old games weren't doing anyone any good just sitting around, that there hadn't been an Intellivision Lives! collection for quite some time anyway, and that at least the updated Astrosmash and Shark! Shark! games will let some people experience those old IP. You can also argue that it's not like the Intellivision Lives! collection was comprehensive anyway since for so many of those old consoles the biggest games were often licensed IP or arcade conversions. You won't be seeing BurgerTime or Tron: Deadly Discs on those collections, despite those being crucial parts of the Intellivision story. So maybe from a practical perspective not much has changed. You can still sail certain forbidden seas to get a full collection, and the Intellivision Lives! collections are still out there. Plus there are now the Evercade cartridges.
But I think that even if you don't think it matters that much practically...this is still the ruthless dismantling of something that some people loved. Intellivision mattered to Keith Robinson and his partners. They cared about it. And Tommy Tallarico claimed to care about it too, which is how he got his hands on it. He constantly talked about his reverence for the system and its games. And yet he is the one responsible for breaking up the collection and tarnishing the brand.
It didn't have to be this way. Tallarico could have focused on creating a few pieces of software first to update the older IP for a modern audience. Maybe something like Eugene Jarvis did with Cruis'n Blast, which recaptured much of what made N64 racers great. Instead he did...what he did, and now Intellivision's IP will be sold off for parts and maybe a few franchises will live on in cheapo remakes but the loving presentation of the original system is gone. Keith Robinson's carefully curated collection has been smashed and stripped and will be thrown away.
This is part of what makes game preservation so hard. It is difficult to get these things together and much easier to just sell them off in bits for a cheap buck. We've seen it happen with countless companies and IP. And often the buyers don't do anything with it anyway (Konami seems totally disinterested in even its own IP outside Metal Gear and Castlevania, let alone Hudson's.)
For those of us who care about this stuff it's all just depressing. I don't love Intellivision personally; it was never part of my childhood and most of the games are too simple and awkward to be much fun in 2023, but I did love learning Keith Robinson's passion for it and Intellivision Lives! is a neat collection with its own theme song.
Just a microcosm of a world where creative people build fragile things, and narcissist jerks break them apart in pursuit of their own vainglory.