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INTELLIVISION

A Brief History

FROM THE FILES OF THE BLUE SKY RANGERS


OUR FAVORITE QUOTES

"And you need to release this aggression. Aggression against...this damn video game! No, it ain't the game, it's this controller! It's the controller! It's the controller!"
-- Comedian Gallagher on a TV special, while repeatedly smashing an Intellivision and its hand controllers with a sledgehammer

"You know what the three big lies are, don't you? 'The check is in the mail,' 'I'll still respect you in the morning,' and 'the Keyboard will be out in the Spring.'"
--Comedian Jay Leno at the 1981 Mattel Electronics Christmas Party, referring to the long-promised, long-delayed Intellivision Computer Keyboard Component

"Aquarius -- System for the Seventies!"
-- Mattel Graphic Designer Bob Del Principe's suggested slogan for the Aquarius Home Computer System's 1983 debut

"Are we jerking them around, Hugh?"
"We're jerking some of them around, Mike."
--Exchange between Mike Minkoff, Director of Applications Software, and Hugh Barnes, Senior Vice President of Operations, after a pep talk to the Mattel programmers remaining after the massive August 4, 1983 layoff (another layoff followed in October)

"We are closed, now!"
-- Final line of BurgerTime TV commercial, frequently quoted by the remaining Mattel programmers on January 20, 1984, the day they were all laid off

"We are continuing in the business."
-- Mattel Spokesperson Spencer Boise, January 30, 1984

"No comment."
-- Mattel Spokesperson Spencer Boise, January 30, 1984, when asked to confirm reports that the entire programming staff had been laid off a week earlier

"[Ike] Perlmutter [one of the investors who purchased the Intellivision rights from Mattel] expressed his commitment to continuing the Intellivision product line, and said he plans to place the Intellivision name on other appliances, such as hair dryers."
--Los Angeles Times, February 7, 1984

"We are open, now!"
-- Blue Sky Rangers Keith Robinson & Steve Roney in an April, 1997 e-mail to the other Rangers, announcing the formation of Intellivision Productions, Inc., and the purchase of the Intellivision rights

Once upon a time, as the 1980s were dawning, Atari more or less had the video game market to itself. Then Mattel Toys introduced Intellivision -- Intelligent Television! The first Intellivision games, produced by an outside software firm, were so successful that Mattel started a new company -- Mattel Electronics -- to develop games in-house. A staff of young, creative, and pretty damn good-looking programmers was hired. For fear that Atari would try to lure them away, Mattel insisted that their identities be kept anonymous; they were referred to in publicity as The Blue Sky Rangers.

In 1982 the video game industry boomed. The Blue Sky Rangers grew from twenty programmers to well over a hundred at Mattel's Hawthorne, California headquarters. Dozens more were hired at Mattel's offices in France and Taiwan.

Scores of companies jumped on the bandwagon, developing games for Atari's, Mattel's, and newcomer Coleco's game systems. It seemed that every major company, from 20th Century Fox to Quaker Oats, had to have its own video game division. The Blue Sky Rangers themselves, in addition to designing Intellivision games, developed titles for the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Apple II, IBM PC and PC Jr., and Mattel's Aquarius computer. Hundreds of new cartridges and disks hit the market.

Midway through 1983, it all collapsed. Supply far outpaced demand, stores returned millions of unsold cartridges, and the industry lost about, oh, one or two billion dollars.

At the January 1984 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it was obvious that video games were dead. (Just about everyone ignored the new game system introduced by one company; it was called Nintendo.)

Two weeks after C.E.S., Mattel Electronics was shut down. Except for a buildingful of accountants and lawyers left behind to clean up the mess, everybody was laid off.

But Intellivision wouldn't die! The rights to the system were purchased by a new company, INTV Corporation, started by the former Marketing VP of Mattel Electronics. Using Blue Sky Rangers to complete unfinished Mattel games and to create new ones, INTV continued to release Intellivision games throughout the eighties. When INTV finally shuttered in 1990, it ended a ten-year-plus run of commercial production for Intellivision -- the longest support of any cartridge-based game system!

[photo of the Blue Sky Rangers 10th Anniversary dinner]

The Blue Sky Rangers themselves lived on, meeting annually to commemorate the closing of Mattel Electronics. (The above photo was taken at the ten-year reunion, January 1994.) Many rode the video game comeback of the late 80s to new success: several run their own game companies; others are top programmers, artists, designers and executives, responsible for some of the industry's biggest hits.

And Intellivision still won't die! When the Blue Sky Rangers established this web site in June 1995, thousands of fans visited, most wondering when they could play the classic games again. So Intellivision Productions, Inc. was founded by some of the Blue Sky Rangers to purchase the rights and develop versions playable on PC and Mac.

Today, the Blue Sky Rangers are still creative and still damn good-looking, just not quite so young. But at this site we turn back the clock to those pioneering days -- when the challenge was to stuff a fun game (and its graphics, music and sound effects) into 4K. For those of you who played these games, we hope it triggers some happy memories. And for those of you who didn't, we hope you'll try them today! Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!


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