Home Page | Retrotopia Store | Site Index

INTELLIVISION

Ask Hal

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS TO THE BLUE SKY RANGERS


If you have a question not covered here, e-mail it to AskHal@intellivisionlives.com. We'll do our best to think up an answer. Questions and answers with wide interest to our visitors will be added to this page.

IF YOUR QUESTION IS SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE INTELLIVISION LIVES! CD-ROM, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE TECH SUPPORT PAGE BEFORE E-MAILING.


Dear Hal,
When was Intellivision first sold, and how long was it on the market?

The Intellivision Video Game System was test-marketed in Fresno, California in 1979. Its official national sales began in 1980. It was originally a product of the Mattel Toys "Mattel Electronics" line. Mattel Electronics was spun off as a separate Mattel Inc. company in 1982 (besides Mattel Toys, Mattel Inc. then owned Monogram Models, Western Publishing and other companies). After severe losses throughout the video game industry in 1983, Mattel Inc. closed Mattel Electronics in January 1984 and sold the rights to the Intellivision system and games to a product-liquidation company. That company founded Intellivision Inc. with former Mattel Electronics Director of Marketing Terry Valeski as its president. While the company primarily sold off existing Mattel inventory, it did introduce a couple of Intellivision games that had been finished at Mattel but not released. After most of the Mattel inventory was sold, Valeski bought out the liquidation company, formed INTV Corporation, and hired former Mattel Electronics programmers to produce new Intellivision games. INTV kept the Intellivision master component and games on the market into 1990 before declaring bankruptcy.


Dear Hal,
How many different versions of the Intellivision console were released? What were their differences?

In addition to the original familiar brown-and-gold Intellivision master component, Mattel also manufactured Intellivision consoles under other names for large retailers: the Telegames Super Video Arcade, sold by Sears; the Tandyvision One, sold by Radio Shack; and the GTE SylvaniaVision, sold through GTE stores. These consoles were functionally identical to the original master component with two exceptions: the Telegames Super Video Arcade (1) featured detachable hand controllers and (2) did not display the line Mattel Electronics presents on the standard game title screen.

For European markets, the master component was sold with either PAL or SECAM (French) video encoding and appropriate power supplies. Master components sold in France also featured direct audio and video outputs. The PAL and SECAM versions were otherwise identical to the NTSC (USA) version and play the same game cartridges. Unfortunately, the Intellivision always draws a 525-line game screen (US TV standard), while PAL and SECAM televisions display 625 lines. This means that European Intellivisions play games in a window making up less than 80% of the screen.

In 1982, Mattel phased out the original master component, replacing it with the restyled light-grey Intellivision II. The functional differences: (1) detachable hand controllers, (2) an on/off light, (3) works with the System Changer module that enables Atari 2600 cartridges to be played on an Intellivision. Also, a trap was added to the operating system to keep third-party games from working on the Intellivision II. Some Coleco cartridges (and Mattel's own Word Fun) fell victim, but third-party producers quickly figured how to get around the trap.

For the European market, Mattel tried to develop a special video chip that would display the full PAL/SECAM 625 lines. The slow development of this chip delayed, and finally killed, the introduction of Intellivision II in Europe.

After Mattel got out of the video game market in 1984, INTV Corporation, after liquidating the remaining inventory of Intellivision II, went back to the original master component design, with the single functional change of adding an on/off light. This black-and-silver unit was sold under various names: The INTV System III, The INTV Super Pro System and the INTV Master System. Like the original Intellivision, it does not have detachable hand controllers and will not work with the System Changer module.

Prototypes of an orange-cased, but functionally identical, master component were produced as part of a joint project between INTV and World Book Encyclopedia. Called Tutorvision, the idea was to create an educational game system (that would also play standard Intellivision games). At least six educational titles were programmed and gray cartridge casings were molded, but the INTV/World Book partnership dissolved in mutual lawsuits before any product was released.

In all, about 3 million Intellivision master components of all versions were sold.


Dear Hal,
How many Intellivision games were released? Is there a list?

Mattel released 51 Intellivision cartridges. Intellivision Inc./INTV Corp. introduced another 21, many of which were enhanced or previously unreleased Mattel games. 43 more were released by other companies: Activision (7), Atari (3), Coleco (8), Dextell (2), Imagic (14), Interphase (2), Parker Brothers (6) and Sega (1). That's 115 in all

Also, Mattel Electronics released 4 Intellivision cartridges that required the Intellivoice module and another 6 that required the Entertainment Computer System module. That brings the grand total to 125.

There is a list of these games here.

This count does not include cartridges that were the same game released under different names: e.g., Mattel's NFL Football and Sears' Football, Atari's Pac-Man and INTV's Pac-Man (Atari title screen removed), Mattel's Major League Baseball and INTV's Big League Baseball, Mattel's Checkers and Mattel (England)'s Draughts; nor games that have two versions due to changes made after their initial release: e.g., Space Battle, Auto Racing and Lock 'N' Chase. It also doesn't count demo, test or prototype cartridges, nor does it count the nine titles produced for the original Intellivision Keyboard Component, since they never received a full national release.


Dear Hal,
What were the first and last Intellivision games?

The first Intellivision game programmed was Major League Baseball. David Rolfe programmed the game in 1978 while developing the Intellivision operating system (the EXEC). As he explains, he couldn't write the operating system without having a game and he couldn't write a game without having an operating system, so he wrote them both at the same time. The first games released, however, were Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, Math Fun, Armor Battle and Backgammon, which were part of the 1979 test marketing in Fresno, California. Major League Baseball hit the market in 1980 (a number of the games introduced in 1980 carry 1978 or 1979 copyright dates).

The last games released were Stadium Mud Buggies and Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball, which were both introduced in the 1989 INTV Corp. Christmas Catalog. The last game completed was Deep Pockets: Super Pro Pool & Billiards, which was never released in cartridge form (it is on the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM). Another game, an Intellivision version of the computer game Choplifter!, was left unfinished. Deep Pockets and Choplifter! both carried 1990 copyright dates.


Dear Hal,
What were the best Intellivision games? What were the worst?

Well, I didn't want to be accused of bias in answering this question, so I turned to the Digital Press Classic Videogames Collector's Guide, which we have absolutely no connection with. The guide recommends playing the following Intellivision games:

  • ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Cloudy Mountain Cartridge (Mattel Electronics)
  • Atlantis (Imagic)
  • B-17 Bomber (Mattel Electronics)
  • Body Slam: Super Pro Wrestling (INTV)
  • Bump 'N' Jump (Mattel Electronics)
  • BurgerTime (Mattel Electronics)
  • Dreadnaught Factor (Activision)
  • Frog Bog (Mattel Electronics)
  • Horse Racing (Mattel Electronics)
  • Microsurgeon (Imagic)
  • Mountain Madness: Super Pro Skiing (INTV)
  • PBA Bowling (Mattel Electronics)
  • Pinball (Mattel Electronics)
  • Safecracker (Imagic)
  • Shark! Shark! (Mattel Electronics)
  • Slam Dunk: Super Pro Basketball (INTV)
  • Stadium Mud Buggies (INTV)
  • Sub Hunt (Mattel Electronics)
  • Tower of Doom (INTV)
  • Utopia (Mattel Electronics)
  • World Series Major League Baseball (Mattel Electronics)
  • Worm Whomper (Activision)

If I may add just one thought: Are these guys out of their bloody minds!?! I can't imagine any Intellivision fan not listing Astrosmash or Night Stalker or TRON Deadly Discs or Biplanes (in the Triple Action cartridge). These were all programmer favorites.

We also get plenty of e-mail from people listing their favorites. In addition to the games listed above, Sea Battle, Mind Strike and Lock 'N' Chase are most often mentioned.

As for the worst, I believe I will sidestep that question, although I will opine that the most disappointing Intellivision game was probably the heavily-hyped Donkey Kong. All of us at Mattel were worried about Coleco's entry into the Intellivision market, particularly with such a popular title as Donkey Kong. The cartridge, however, was terrible. So bad, some Mattel programmers were sure that Coleco had done it deliberately to make their Colecovision version look that much better. The Mattel programmers wanted to program an Intellivision version of Donkey Kong themselves - just to show to game magazine reporters that, with good programming, the lower-resolution Intellivision could still in many ways outperform a Colecovision. (Management wouldn't let them, but their point was proved later with the game BurgerTime: most independent reviewers seem to find the Intellivision version superior to the Colecovision version, or even to the Nintendo version.)


Dear Hal,
What was the best selling Intellivision cartridge?

We only have sales figures through June 1983 and only for Mattel, but at that point Major League Baseball was in the lead with over 1 million games sold. Just below 1 million at that point, and certainly joining the million-selling club soon thereafter, were NFL Football, Astrosmash, Space Battle and Space Armada. Star Strike and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, with sales in June '83 of 800,000 and 700,000 respectively, may have also ultimately broken 1 million. Of the games released after June 1983, BurgerTime and Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man were both best sellers, but with the industry collapse that year it's doubtful either reached the 1 million sales mark.

While we don't have sales figures for any of the third-party publishers of Intellivision games such as Activision or Coleco, it is also doubtful any of their titles reached 1 million in sales, given the short time they were on the market before the collapse.

The most distributed cartridge was Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, which came free with the Intellivision master component the first two years it was on the market. About two million of that cartridge were shipped. It should also be noted that for several months, Astrosmash came free with the master component, which boosted its sales figures.


Dear Hal,
Were changes ever made to an Intellivision cartridge after it was released?

Yes. Running changes were made to several of the cartridges released by Mattel Electronics. These changes were usually to make games easier after complaints from consumers, although Space Battle was made harder. A complete list of these games and the changes made is charted here.


Dear Hal,
Did you guys see the game idea I sent to Mattel?

Sorry, no. The legal department intercepted all unsolicited game ideas and filed them unread. No one in Applications Software or Marketing was allowed to see them. That way, if someone sued because a released game resembled his submission, Mattel would be able to demonstrate in court that no one associated with game design could have seen it. While to our knowledge no one ever did sue, even today we get e-mail from people claiming we stole their ideas. We didn't. It was a coincidence. Honest.


Dear Hal,
Did the Blue Sky Rangers get royalties on their games?

Yeah, right. Actually, late in 1983, in an effort to boost morale in a software staff that had been more than halved due to layoffs and defections, Mattel did institute a bonus scheme based on cartridge sales. It was carefully not called a "royalty" to make clear that payments would stop when the programmer left the company -- for whatever reason. Only games released in 1983 were eligible; a few programmers received a single bonus payment for their games before Mattel Electronics was closed in January 1984.


Dear Hal,
Who owns the rights to the Intellivision games today?

After the INTV Corporation bankruptcy was legally concluded, former INTV President Terry Valeski was still in control of the Intellivision copyrights. In 1997, Valeski sold the rights to Ultimatte Corporation, a company that develops software for motion picture and television special effects. Ultimatte in turn licensed full, exclusive rights to the Intellivision system and games to Intellivision Productions, a corporation owned by former Mattel Electronics programmers Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer) and Stephen Roney (B-17 Bomber), and by Ultimatte Corporation.

While Intellivision Productions obtained the rights to all of the Mattel Electronics and INTV Corporation titles, some games include elements (characters, graphics, gameplay) that were licensed from other companies, such as Disney and Hanna-Barbera. Until and unless those licenses can be renewed, those particular games can't be re-released.

Intellivision Productions has sublicensed the games on its Intellivision Lives! PC/Mac collection to Activision Inc. for their PlayStation release, Intellivision Classics. In return, Intellivision Productions received the right to release the Activision and Imagic Intellivision titles in the upcoming PC/Mac collection Intellivision Rocks!



Dear Hal,
Where can I get an Intellivision and/or games today?

You can try your luck hitting swap meets, garage sales and thrift stores, or you can check out online auction sites. There are usually a number of Intellivision systems and games being auctioned on the eBay web site. Search on the word "Intellivision."

When you buy an Intellivision, make sure it has the switch box that connects the Intellivision output cable to the television set; those are hard to come by these days (it is a small silver box with a GAME/TV slide switch). And if you buy an Intellivision II, make absolutely sure it includes the external power supply. They are a nonstandard (16.2VAC) voltage and impossible to find separately.

You can play the games from the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM on your Intellivision console using an Intellicart. It's an economical way to put together a collection equal to over 50 classic cartridges! Details are here.


Dear Hal,
Where can I find instructions and/or overlays to an Intellivision game today?

The instructions for all of the Intellivision cartridges released by Mattel Electronics and INTV Corporation are posted here. The same page has a menu of available overlay images.

More instructions and overlays will be added later.


Dear Hal,
Is there a way to play the old Intellivision games on my PC or Mac?

Yes! The Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM, available now, lets you play over 50 of the original Intellivision games on your PC or Mac. Check the Intellivision Lives! page for more information.


Dear Hal,
I have the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM. Some of the historical information on it contradicts what's on your web site. Who's right?

Usually the web site. The publicity surrounding the release of Intellivision Lives! resulted in some former Mattel and APh programmers we weren't in touch with contacting us. They have provided additional material and corrected errors; we have updated the web site accordingly. The majority of these additions and corrections are in the credits for games produced at APh. If you find a specific contradiction you want us to clear up, send it to AskHal@intellivisionlives.com.


Dear Hal,
Hey, you claim the Intellivision III was never released. I have one!

What you have is an INTV System III Master Component, which is sometimes referred to as an Intellivision III. The "real" Intellivision III, announced by Mattel Electronics in a 1983 press release, was to be an enhanced, higher-resolution Intellivision. The INTV System III, introduced in 1985 by INTV Corporation, is essentially a clone of the original 1979 Intellivision.


Dear Hal,
Is the Intellivision Y2K compliant?

Not fully. Don't worry, you will still be able to play Kool-Aid Man on January 1, but if Mattel were still developing games for Intellivision, they'd have a problem: the routine that draws the standard Mattel Electronics presents title screen uses two digits to input the year. So in 2000, new games would display the copyright line: Copr @ 1900 Mattel.

This shouldn't prove a serious problem, however, since (a) a custom title screen routine can be used and (b) there isn't the slightest chance that Mattel will be making new Intellivision cartridges.


Dear Hal,
Can you send me more detailed technical Intellivision info?

Full technical and programming documentation will be posted to the web site over the next few months.


Dear Hal,
Are there any Intellivision caps left?

Yes! Check out the Blue Sky Rangers Souvenir Stand now!


TO HOME PAGE

©Intellivision Productions, Inc.
comments@intellivisionlives.com

Hosted by WebCom