Most of Ars’ end-of-2021 gaming coverage focused on the best stuff made during a bizarre year of delays and chip shortages. But there’s one other matter to wrap up before moving wholesale into 2022: my prediction for the biggest gaming product to not last past the end of this new year. Somehow, that prediction doesn’t involve NFTs.
When I first stumbled upon the Intellivision Amico in 2018, I was intrigued. This home-console concept looked like a unique entry into the resurgent “retro console” sector; it had an unusual touchscreen controller and designs on resurrecting Mattel’s classic Intellivision brand. Comparatively, companies like Nintendo had stopped manufacturing retro-friendly throwback consoles, leaving a gap in the market for a brand like Intellivision to potentially capitalize on.
Between recognizable licenses and a few decent games in its original sizzle reels, I wondered if this modest system might have a shot. (I was optimistic about many more things in 2018, of course.)
The more I looked at the Amico (the Italian word for “friend’), however, the more puzzled I became. The first major red flag came when its development portal was left unlocked for open view on the web. This early 2021 peek revealed less than $100 in combined parts per retail box, well below the system’s current $250 preorder price. Over 100 percent profit is unusual for a gaming console, as that device category often sells at a lower price to entice the longer tail of licensed game sales.
To its credit, the Amico is slated to come with six pack-in games, but the quality of those games, as revealed thus far, doesn’t appear to justify that cost gap. As a comparison point, Amico’s pack-in tally falls well short of the 24 games coming with the whimsical portable system Playdate, which retails for $70 less at $180.
Then there were the mounting delays. The system was once scheduled to launch in October 2019, only to fall back to October 2020—and again to October 2021. Months before last year’s originally scheduled launch, a vague delay to “December 2021” came with little assurance that the system was even being manufactured. Last month, Intellivision confirmed that the Amico wouldn’t land in any preorder customers’ hands until 2022.
Emigrating from the World of Tanks
Despite so many delays, however, Intellivision clearly had some kind of working hardware in the wild, as evidenced by brief, carefully edited videos captured at malls and family fun centers. Intellivision’s 2021 statements about delays routinely mentioned issues with parts shortages, yet those issues wouldn’t necessarily stop the company from demonstrating “final” software and OS menus at any point beyond the original 2019 launch window.
But the Amico’s “near-final” OS didn’t appear until the very end of 2021. As revealed, it could use some serious work; currently, it forces users to pick through icons of every game on sale, whether the title has been purchased or not. As for the games themselves, Amico demonstration videos so far have included glaring issues—including unlicensed art assets taken from Wargaming’s World of Tanks in one video (which, upon being exposed by critics, led to Intellivision editing and relisting the video twice) and copied-and-pasted text from Nintendo’s Star Fox series in another.
Additionally, the Amico games we’ve seen the most in the past year have a decidedly cheap “college project” vibe in both graphics and gameplay, like they were ripped from an average Flash gaming portal from the late 2000s. Curiously, the splashiest game snippets from the console’s earliest gameplay sizzle reels have yet to receive additional reveals or gameplay demonstrations, despite including titles from known indie devs like Choice Provisions and Other Ocean.