Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Intellivision

Go To
Intellivision. Intelligent Television.

The Atari 2600 inspired other companies to enter the market for video games. One of these companies was Mattel Toys, which established the Mattel Electronics division to develop a video game console. The Intellivision was released to the public in late 1980 (although some sources, including a vintage informational video on YouTube, say 1979); while it never defeated Atari for the hearts and minds of the public, it was the 2600's strongest initial rival, and hung around for some time.

In a famous advertising campaign of the time, writer George Plimpton proclaimed (and showed) that the Intellivision's graphics were superior to those of the Atari 2600. While the Intellivision could produce superior graphics to the 2600 (though the Colecovision's graphics were still better), sports games were the only genre where Mattel really challenged Atari (who produced the Realsports series in response), though many of the earlier "Sports Network" titles had the defect of being multiplayer-only.

Mattel had trouble securing the rights to produce home ports of Arcade Games: many popular titles had been acquired by Atari and Coleco (who ended up porting many of them to the Intellivision anyway), and Mattel had to make a deal with then-obscure company Data East, with surprisingly good results. To compensate for its deficiency in arcade ports, Mattel invested heavily in rights to make Licensed Games, such as three for the film TRON, but many of these were never developed or never released.

The Intellivision didn't use a joystick - it had a round, touch-sensitive pad and a 12-button keypad above it (games frequently included inserts that went above the pad to show how the buttons were used). On the downside, the controllers were permanently attached to the console, and games couldn't use the keypad and the control disc at the same time.

The Intellivoice add-on is of historical note in that it made the Intellivision the first console capable of voice synthesis, though only five Intellivision games supported it. Other proposed add-ons for the console entered Development Hell; Jay Leno drew laughs at a Mattel function making fun of how long the keyboard add-on project was taking his joke . The Keyboard Component, as it was formally named, was heavily marketed at the system's launch, as it was intended to turn the Intellivision into a full-fledged home computer as a low-cost alternative to the fledgling Atari 400/800 and Commodore VIC-20. Unfortunately, the development team couldn't find a cost-effective means to create a mass-production model, and after the Federal Trade Commission came down on Mattel for failing to live up to their advertised promise, a scaled-down Entertainment Computer System module (developed by a separate in-house team) was released. It also has the dubious honor of being the first console to run on 16-bit hardware, though it obviously couldn't hold a candle to what people associate with 16-bit consoles such as the Sega Genesis and SNES. Ironically enough, the TurboGrafx-16 ran off a modified 6502 and yet it boasted visuals similar to its 16-bit contemporaries.

The Intellivision II, released in 1983, was not a new system but rather a minor technical upgrade whose most remarkable "feature" was incompatibility with Mattel's previously-released cartridges. Mattel Electronics also released the Aquarius home computer that year, promoting it with video games and other software; the Aquarius, being based on a technologically primitive design, handled both poorly and was quickly discontinued.

Mattel Electronics was one of the first casualties of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, shutting down operations in early 1984. Interestingly, a former Mattel exec ended up buying the rights to it, and the new company (INTV Corp.) was able to sell the console and a few new games via mail order, until it too succumbed and went out of business entirely in 1991. Ultimately, the rights were sold to a former game developer who formed Intellivision Productions, which continues to license Intellivision properties to this day.

In 2014, At Games released the Intellivision Flashback, a pretty faithful recreation of the original model system with 60 built-in games that run on an emulator chip.

In 2018, a brand-new console in the Intellivision line was announced along with the news that industry veteran Tommy Tallarico was named CEO/President of the company. The Intellivision Amico was set for launch in October 2021, but now it is currently unknown, especially after an SEC filing in early 2022 which showed that the company would be unable to operate beyond July 2022.



  • CPU: General Instrument CP1610, ~0.9 Mhz
  • GPU General Instrument AY-3-8900
  • General Instrument AY-3-8914 sound chip


  • 1,456 bytes


  • 159×96 resolution, doubled vertically to 159×192
  • 16 colors
  • 8 sprites


  • Three channels
  • Square or noise waveforms
  • Add-on General Instruments SP0256-AL2 speech synthesizer chip via the Intellivoice expansion cartridge



  • Billions of Buttons: The controller had a whopping 17 buttons total - a 12-button keypad, two trigger buttons on each side, and the disc at the bottom (which is a touch-sensitive D-Pad) doubled as an extra button (although it couldn't work in conjunction with the keypad).
  • Product Facelift: The Intellivision II, which made the console smaller and sleeker and had detachable controllers. Mattel also slightly modified the hardware in an attempt to lock out unauthorized third-party games, resulting in some games like Shark, Shark, Space Spartans, and Super Pro Football having minor sound and glitch issues. Certain games like Electric Company Word Fun won't run at all on the redesigned model.