Meet Amico, Intellivision's strange vision for a new games console
The next PlayStation and Xbox are confirmed to be in the works at Sony and Microsoft, but the more interesting upcoming consoles might just be those from 80s relics like Atari and Intellivision. The latter has now fleshed out its plans to get back in the game with the Amico, its new console that, we have to say, is a strange beast indeed.
The company first announced in May that it planned to get back into hardware, but exactly what form that would take remained murky until now. Like Atari's upcoming VCS, the Intellivision Amico seems to be very much focused on nostalgia while updating it with a few modern concessions.
Although the only visuals so far are sketches and 3D renders, the Amico looks like a sleek, curvy trapezoid with two controllers perched on top. To younger eyes they may look like first-generation iPods, but those who grew up playing Intellivision will instantly recognize the classic controllers. The 16-directional pad returns, but the rows of numbered buttons have been replaced by a 3.5-in color touchscreen. The four buttons on the sides also make a return.
A few new additions give them some of the perks of Nintendo Wii remotes – a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer enable motion control schemes, and force feedback is in there too. The controllers can also be used in vertical or horizontal positions, or flipped around to suit left- and right-handed players. There's also a speaker and microphone onboard.
Instead of being connected to the console by the curly cords of yesteryear, the new controllers connect via Bluetooth and recharge wirelessly when docked. While that seems like a logical upgrade to make, we're not sure how (if at all) the controllers will be useable while they're charging.
But Intellivision may have an interesting workaround – a mobile app can apparently turn phones into extra controllers. Not only could you resort to that while the main ones are charging, but it also allows up to eight players to jump into a game at once.
Speaking of games, the library is firmly rooted in the past, but rather than port over the classics, Intellivision is remaking them. Graphics and audio will be modernized, new levels will be added, and extra modes, like local and online multiplayer and tournaments, will be introduced. On top of that, all of these versions are exclusive to the Amico.
The lineup reads like a Who's Who of arcade classics. Intellivision's own titles, like Shark! Shark!, B-17 Bomber, Night Stalker, Astrosmash and SNAFU are all accounted for, as are games from Imagic like Microsurgeon, Atlantis, Dracula and Swords & Serpents. Assorted oldies like Lode Runner, Super Burgertime and ToeJam & Earl are also on the guest list, but the real star of the show is Atari, bringing to the table household names like Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Breakout, Tempest and Lunar Lander.
But it won't just be the classics. Intellivision says it plans to release brand new games as well, inspired by the simplicity of old. Rather than come on discs or cartridges, Amico games will be digital downloads only, and Intellivision says that several of its own games will come preinstalled on the console. Others can be bought from an online store for relatively low prices – between US$2.99 and $7.99. Interestingly, the company is promising there will be no downloadable add-ons or in-app purchases, which have been divisive in the video game industry in recent years.
But perhaps the strangest decision is that every game on the Amico will be family-friendly. Although that might limit its appeal to some of the "hardcore" gamers, it's not necessarily a bad thing – Nintendo has carved out a solid family niche for itself for almost 40 years, but it still lets other companies publish more mature games on its platforms. And given Intellivision's focus on old-school simplicity, it shouldn't be too hard to avoid graphic violence and gore anyway.
If all this has piqued your interest, it seems we still have quite a while to wait. The Amico isn't due to launch until October 10, 2020. When it does, Intellivision says it will be priced at between US$149 and $179.
Check out the reveal trailer below.