1984 Planned Releases
PAGE 1 OF 2
During 1982, while video game companies weren't really paying attention, the video game fad ended. Teenagers switched their televisions to MTV; adults got hooked on the board game Trivial Pursuit. But more and more companies announced new titles for Atari, Intellivision and Colecovision.
Millions of games were on store shelves for Christmas 1982, but as 1983 started, retailers started returning millions of them unsold.
Thanks to a market of hardcore players, the demand for video games was still growing, but at a much slower rate than the manufacturers were churning out new cartridges.
Because they failed to keep up with this evolving marketplace, Mattel Electronics' top management was replaced in July 1983. Due to the development and manufacturing time for a game -- six months minimum, realistically around a year -- there was little effect on the 1983 product line, but the strategy for 1984 was radically different.
Fewer titles were to be released. Every title had to be produced for multiple systems to make marketing and advertising more efficient. M Network titles had already been released for Atari 2600, IBM PC and the Apple II. Adding ColecoVision, Commodore 64 and other computers was planned.
Most titles were also required to have a licensing tie-in: an arcade game, a movie, a television show. A title would be released without a tie-in only if it had some feature or effect so innovative that marketing could build promotion of the game around that feature (for example, the 3-D glasses of Hover Force 3-D).
Except for Go For The Gold (which recycled four Sports Network games in an Olympics-themed cartridge) and Party Line (which would have included three original games), no album cartridges were announced. But dozens of different combinations were proposed.
Most of these proposed albums were obvious -- sports games, action games -- but several interesting ideas came up. One was to use canceled or marginal (in Marketing's viewpoint) games so that one new title could be included on each cartridge (using Thin Ice to anchor a children's album was briefly considered). Another was to include the Intellivoice game Space Spartans on a space album, since it was only 8K, could be played at lower levels without voice, and might spark some sales of Intellivoice modules, which were gathering dust on store shelves.
Who knows? -- Hypnotic Lights, Magic Carousel, Adventures of TRON and other shelved titles all might have finally seen the light of day, but Mattel Electronics closed in January 1984, before any album cartridge could be produced.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [UNFINISHED]
At the same time, Ron Surratt and Pat Lewis were working on an unrelated original M Network Atari 2600 game called Computer Revenge that also featured movement over a grid.
Marketing was firmly committed to their All-Flavors strategy -- putting the same game onto as many different systems as possible. Spotting a superficial similarity -- the grid -- between Moon Corridors and Computer Revenge, Marketing decided they should be merged into one game: Computer Corridor.
A few discussions were held on what the new unified game should be like, but Russ left the company a short time later. Work continued on the Atari version, but no one was ever assigned to continue the Intellivision version.
INTELLIVISION ALBUM CARTRIDGE [UNFINISHED]
Trick or Treat
The Design & Development department worked around the problem by building cartridges using pagable ROM. 4K blocks -- pages -- of data could share the same address space and be selected by the program as needed.
While the pagable ROMs were intended to allow larger games, it was apparent that they would be ideal for multi-game "albums." Several old and/or new games could easily be linked together on one cartridge with a menu.
To demonstrate this, Dale Lynn of the D & D department came up with the original idea Happy Holidays. The cartridge would contain three original holiday-themed games.
Demo screens for the games were designed by Kai Tran and Lori Sunahara, also of D & D, and Dale programmed some simple animation. Dale presented the idea at a meeting of the senior Mattel Electronics executives.
The concept of game albums was enthusiastically embraced: everyone started brainstorming ideas for albums of both original and recycled games. (Many albums probably would have hit the market in 1984, but only two -- Go For the Gold and Party Line -- formally made it onto the release schedule.)
The idea of Happy Holidays itself, however, was quickly squelched by VP of Application Software Gabriel Baum. Gabriel jealously guarded his department as the only one within Mattel to actually develop Intellivision cartridges. At the meeting, he dismissed the idea of a holiday-themed cartridge, declaring there would be no market for it. Case closed. Happy Holidays died on the spot.
(One D & D programmed game did eventually make it to market: Melody Blaster for the ECS Music Synthesizer.)
Tower of Doom
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [INTV #8600]
For one player
After completing Loco-Motion, Dan Bass took up the challenge of defining what Arcade D&D would be. He designed a screen layout with scrolling text instructions that made the game easy to follow, but would still allow the complex, strategic play that D&D fans expected. Battle scene close-ups provided the action Marketing wanted.
A limited demo of the game appeared at one trade show with the name ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS REVENGE OF THE MASTER Cartridge (once again, the bizarre capitalization and inclusion of the word "cartridge" in the title was demanded by contract), but by the time it appeared in Mattel Electronics catalogs it had been renamed ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS TOWER OF MYSTERY Cartridge.
The game was only half-completed when Mattel Electronics closed its doors in January 1984. Over two years later, INTV Corp. expressed an interest in releasing it. Dan, working full-time in Massachusetts by this time, was not available to finish it, so John Tomlinson (Mission X) was hired for the job. Connie Goldman (Thunder Castle) completed the graphics started at Mattel by Monique Lujan-Bakerink and Karl Morris.
Not wanting to pay for the Dungeons & Dragons license, INTV released the cartridge in 1987 under the new name, Tower of Doom.
Mattel Electronics had an M Network Atari 2600 version and an Apple version of the game in development when Mattel Electronics closed.
EASTER EGG: Press 0 (zero) on either hand controller while the title screen is displayed to view game credits.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [UNFINISHED]
A survey mission consists of exploring a planet, usually done "in Transfer": your "aura" or "essence of being" is projected into an intelligent lifeform on the planet. You become that creature physically, with all of its positive and negative aspects.
All planets and adventures are randomly generated; if you're not killed by the Empire, space pirates, or angry aliens, you will be able to adventure forever.
Marketing had other ideas though: they wanted an Intellivision version of the arcade game Mission X, and John was assigned to do it.
While completing Mission X, John secretly worked on Star Quest. When Mission X was finished, he campaigned to be allowed to continue developing Star Quest, arguing that a substantial portion of it was already done.
His strategy worked. Although feeling the concept was too complicated (it was never put on the official release schedule or assigned a product number), management let John continue, with the caveat he make it more action, less strategy. Eric had left Mattel by this time, so new hire Jerry Moore was assigned to assist on the game, renamed Target Andromeda.
The game was killed in the aftermath of the July 1983 management upheaval.
Go for the Gold
INTELLIVISION ALBUM CARTRIDGE [#5393/UNRELEASED]
Salvation came in the form of the multi-game album concept that Design & Development had demonstrated with Happy Holidays. Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer) was assigned the task of slapping together some old sports titles and calling it an Olympics cartridge.
Of the previously released Intellivision Sports Network cartridges, six -- Boxing, NBA Basketball, NASL Soccer, Tennis, U.S. Ski Skiing, NHL Hockey -- were, in their amateur form, Olympic sports, so those were chosen to be in the album. Keith modified their code to remove designations such as HOME and VISITOR from the scores to make them look more like Olympic events.
Monique Lujan-Bakerink animated a runner lighting the Olympic torch for the title screen, and David Warhol composed a fanfare that sounded very close to the familiar Olympic theme.
The game went together very quickly and Marketing was delighted, even though it meant that six sets of hand controllers and an especially thick instruction book would have to go into the package. The boxes were already printed and ROMs were just about to be manufactured when the legal department threw a wrench into the works: Mattel had purchased a license for the 1984 Winter Olympics. They didn't have the rights to the Summer Olympics. Including summer sports on the Go For The Gold cartridge could open Mattel to a lawsuit. Legal demanded the summer sports be removed from the cartridge.
Keith pointed out that would leave only Skiing and Hockey. Two games made for a pretty poor album. Marketing agreed that the cartridge couldn't be released that way. Keith, his boss Mike Minkoff (Snafu), and Marketing worked out a compromise that Legal thought they might be able to get away with: in addition to Skiing and Hockey, Boxing and Basketball would also be included. That would make half the cartridge winter sports (as opposed to before when it was mostly summer sports) and, since Boxing and Basketball are played indoors, they could be played in winter. (Yes, that was stretching it.)
Keith reworked the cartridge to remove Soccer and Tennis, and new packaging was designed (only a black and white mockup was finished), but Mattel Electronics closed before the game went into manufacturing.
FUN FACT: As a bonus, each cartridge was to come with an embroidered 1984 Winter Olympics patch. Mattel Electronics purchased tens of thousands of these, with little "GO FOR THE GOLD WITH MATTEL ELECTRONICS" ribbons attached. Mattel employees kept maybe a hundred or so as souvenirs; the rest are probably in a landfill somewhere.