The Backward-Compatible Morality of Intellivision

The Amico producers have just spent years warning you about other gaming platforms. There’s just one problem…

This article follows this week’s episode of GameDev Breakdown, in which we try to make sense of the Intellivision Amico story and where Intellivision’s actions seem to deviate from its philosophy.


Tommy Tallarico said it four times in his May 2018 interview with VentureBeat. He wanted to bring back the concept of family. The target was the family. He set out his plans for the Amico console with his family in mind. CFO Nick Richards routinely posts on LinkedIn highlighting what he says are predatory practices in the rest of the game industry while Intellivision is “bringing family and friends back together.” To make the Amico work, Intellivision seems to believe it has to establish its beleaguered upcoming system as the only safe way to play video games.

Now the chips are down, however, and we’re hearing a slightly different tune.

Plenty of YouTube channels pounced when Tallarico spoke in interviews giving quotes including, “If you’re into games with blood and violence and sexual content and kids in sexual compromising positions and rape on the Nintendo…if that’s what you want, then buy a Switch.” While he’s since walked back some of those hot takes, he continues to note that players can find explicit content (if they know where to look) on all major platforms and consoles.

Richards, meanwhile, posts about the business side of games and the danger it poses to your wallet and your kids. This includes posts on kids running up expensive in-app purchase bills, sexual predators allegedly following kids around in games, and more. When I responded to one such thread suggesting parents have both the ability and duty to interfere with all of these risks, he challenged my thinking.

“How would parents react to that?” he asked in response to my suggestion that parenting is up to parents. “Do you think it would instill trust?”

I’m guessing he and I would answer these questions the same way: parents wouldn’t appreciate my claim that publishers have absolutely no responsibility nor ability to protect their children from absolutely anything, and that it would not instill trust.

The difference is that I don’t care.

I don’t care because I can’t help what parents think about their responsibility or my own as a parent. Liking or hating it doesn’t change it. I don’t care because parents should not trust a publisher, especially one whose offerings they’re about to present to their children. Trust means letting down your guard and leaving decision-making to the wrong party. Publishers don’t get to decide what my kid sees or has the opportunity to purchase. I do. Nothing strikes me as more predatory than a publisher who wants a parent’s trust. It’s a wholly inappropriate concept. Lastly, I don’t care what parents think about this philosophy because I don’t stand to benefit from it financially.

By now, you’ve probably caught wind of all the trouble facing the company. The Amico has been delayed repeatedly and has no firm launch date. Intellivision initiated a fourth round of fundraising seeking $5 million and apparently gave up at about $58,000. Tommy Tallarico stepped down as CEO, and a portion of the company’s staff–along with its fancy offices–all disappeared.

Customers took to social to complain that their console pre-orders had been cancelled.

Along with all this news, New CEO Phil Adams announced that Intellivision would license out its own intellectual property for development and release on other platforms to fund further Amico development. This, he says, won’t create a direct competition issue because the Amico still has unique controllers and a focus on the family.

I’m sure it’s also difficult for the Amico to compete too directly with anything that physically exists in the marketplace.

And so it may come to pass that Intellivision licensed games start to appear on those very platforms that Tommy Tallarico held up as virtual vice boxes. The ones Nick Richards warned were emptying your wallet, leaving your teens unable to communicate effectively, and propping a door open for sex predators.

It seems one of two things is true:
Either a family-oriented approach to the big platforms and consoles is possible after all (and the Amico didn’t need to be anything more than an unpopular controller), or the threat is as real as its executives say, and you’ll have to follow Intellivision games straight into the belly of the beast.

(It’s the first one.)

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