The Intellivision video game system was introduced by Mattel Toys in 1980 to compete with the Atari 2600. Thanks to superior graphics, sounds, gameplay and an aggressive ad campaign starring George Plimpton, within two years Intellivision had 20% of the billion-dollar American gaming market. But in 1983, due to a glut of mostly inferior games from third-party publishers, the entire gaming industry collapsed. Atari and Mattel abandoned the video game market, Mattel selling Intellivision to an investors group that founded INTV Corp. INTV contracted with former Mattel programmers to continue producing new games for the Intellivision console. Thanks to a large base of loyal fans, Intellivision lasted out the 1980s. Now, thanks to those same fans and to a new generation looking for fun, casual games, Intellivision lives!
Pre-1970 In computer labs throughout the United States, mostly on college campuses, engineers and students create elaborate interactive games on mainframe computers. The games are rarely seen by the public and, since they run on computers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, they have no apparent commercial potential.
1970 First coin-operated video arcade machine, Nolan Bushnell's Computer Space, is introduced by (Bill) Nutting Associates. It flops.
1972 Magnavox introduces Odyssey, first home video game system, designed by Ralph Baer, to moderate success.
1972 Nolan Busnell introduces arcade game, Pong, from his new company, Atari. The game is a hit, becomes cultural phenomenon.
1975 Midway introduces arcade machine Gun Fight, based on the Taito arcade game Western Gun. In redesigning the game for Midway, Dave Nutting Associates (headed by Dave Nutting, brother of Computer Space's Bill Nutting), incorporated an Intel 8080 microprocessor into the machine, making it the first video game, arcade or home system, that is effectively a computer.
1975 Atari enters home market with dedicated Pong unit. Stores sell out nationwide, put customers on waiting lists.
1977 Under "Mattel Electronics" brand name, Mattel Toys introduces world's first handheld electronic games. The handheld units contain simple microprocessors.
1977 Atari introduces the cartridge-based VCS (Video Computer System), later renamed the Atari 2600.
1978 Engineering on the Intellivision video game system begins at Mattel Toys in Hawthorne, California. Programming of operating system and games is farmed out to APh Technological Consulting in Pasadena.
1979 Intellivision console and four game cartridges are successfully test marketed through Gottschalks department stores in and around Fresno, California.
1980 Intellivision introduced nationwide. Mattel claims Intellivision is heart of a home system that will soon include a computer keyboard component. Fifteen more Intellivision titles released, bringing total to 19. Console sales reach 175,000. Mattel hires programmers to start developing software in-house.
1981 $6 million ad campaign touts Intellivision's graphic superiority over Atari 2600. News media take note, start covering video game "war," raising profile of entire industry. Although the $300 Intellivision is twice as expensive as the 2600, sales soar, reaching 850,000 consoles by year's end. Computer keyboard and educational software become low priority; release is delayed. Mattel Toys spins off Mattel Electronics as separate company. Hiring increases.
1982 Video game industry valued at $1.5 billion. Mattel Electronics announces profits of over $100 million, with Intellivisions in over 2 million homes. Most popular Intellivision games sell over a million cartridges each. Companies publishing Atari 2600 cartridges, including Activision and Imagic, start releasing games for the Intellivision system, too. Total Intellivision titles available climbs to over 50. Mattel Electronics releases Intellivoice module and three voice games; raises ad budget for year to over $20 million. Computer keyboard released in limited test markets at $600; general release is repeatedly delayed. Mattel game development staff hits 100. TV Guide magazine, in an article about Intellivision, dubs the developers "The Blue Sky Rangers." The name sticks. Higher-resolution ColecoVision video game system hits market with popular arcade game titles, taking sales away from Intellivision and Atari. While Christmas season for industry is strong overall, there are not enough sales to go around for all of the companies now in the market.
1983 Classic brown-and-woodgrain Intellivision console is replaced by cheaper ($150) light gray Intellivision II. Computer keyboard component is officially cancelled in favor of cheaper, less powerful Entertainment Computer System (ECS). System Changer module is released, allowing Atari 2600 cartridges to be played on an Intellivision II console. Marketing campaign now pushes Intellivision as the system that plays the most games. New systems are released by other companies, including the Atari 5200 and the Vectrex. Games for all systems flood the market, many rushed and of poor quality. Titles available for Intellivision alone approaches 100. By midyear, glut of video game hardware and software creates huge losses and panic within the industry. Mattel Electronics cuts price of Intellivision II console to $69, cancels all new hardware development, and lays off hundreds of employees, including two-thirds of programming staff. Mattel Electronics ends year with over $300 million loss.
1984 Mattel Inc. closes Mattel Electronics, laying off remaining programmers. Sells rights to Intellivision system and games to new company headed by former Mattel Electronics marketing exec. The company (INTV Corp.) continues selling Intellivision in major toy and department store chains, and through mail order. Other companies close or get out of the business, leaving Intellivision the only video game system still sold in the USA that Christmas. Experts proclaim video game industry dead.
1985 When leftover Mattel inventory of Intellivision II consoles runs out, INTV Corp. starts manufacturing the INTV System III console based on the design of the original Intellivision. Starts reprinting most popular games as inventory is exhausted. INTV has U.S. market to itself until Japan's popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is test marketed in America during Christmas season.
1986 INTV introduces games that were completed at Mattel Electronics but never released. Success of the new games spurs INTV to contract with former Mattel Electronics programmers to complete unfinished Intellivision games, update old ones, and create new ones. Although sales of cartridges are only in the 10,000 to 20,000 range, by running a bare-bones operation INTV Corp. is profitable. Nintendo releases NES nationally, quickly followed by new consoles from Sega and Atari (the 7800). The video game industry starts comeback.
1987 Popularity of NES temporarily boosts Intellivision sales: stores that had dropped video games in 1984 now stock them again, including some Intellivision titles. But Christmas clearly belongs to Nintendo.
1988 Stores stop carrying Intellivision console and games. Sales are strictly through mail order.
1989 INTV appeals to patriotism, putting an American flag on the cover of its mail-order catalogs and proclaiming that Intellivision is the only All-American video game system (even though the consoles are made in Hong Kong). Too late, INTV starts developing games for the NES.
1990 INTV files for bankruptcy protection. Production of new games ends. 125 titles have been released for the Intellivision system since its introduction. Over 3 million consoles have been sold.
1991 INTV closes. Remaining inventory of games continues to be sold through Telegames Inc. (mail order) and Radio Shack (in-store catalogs).
1995 Blue Sky Rangers create web site on the history of the Intellivision system. Traffic to web site proves continuing interest in Intellivision.
1997 Intellivision Productions, Inc., formed by ex-Mattel Electronics programmers, obtains exclusive rights to the Intellivision system and games, posts free PC- and Mac-emulated versions of several games on the web.
1998 Intellivision Lives! collection for PC and Mac published by Intellivision Productions.
1999 Intellivision Classics collection for PlayStation published by Activision Inc.
2001 Intellivision Rocks collection for PC and Mac published by Intellivision Productions. Intellivision games for cell phones are published by THQ Wireless.
2002 Intellivision Productions releases Intellivision in Hi-Fi, a CD of music played on or inspired by the Intellivision console.
2003 Intellivision Greatest Hits collections (10 and 25 game versions) for PC and Mac hit store shelves early in year, followed by Intellivision 25 and Intellivision 10 direct-to-TV units in August and the PS2 and Xbox versions of Intellivision Lives! at year's end. A line of handheld games is marketed under the Intellivision brand name.
2004 Due to success of Intellivision Lives! for PS2 and Xbox, publisher Crave Entertainment adds a GameCube version.2004 Intellivision 15, a two-player collection of 15 games in a direct-to-TV unit with two hand controllers, is released exclusively through Bed, Bath & Beyond stores for Christmas.
2005 Intellivision 2nd Edition direct-to-TV unit hits store shelves with improved versions of Astrosmash and Space Armada plus versions of the original Intellivision hits Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, renamed Crown of Kings for legal reasons, and Deadly Discs. By Christmas, the combined sales of the four Intellivision-branded direct-to-TV units approach 4 million, more than the total sales of the original Intellivision consoles.
2008 Microsoft chooses Intellivision Lives! for Xbox to be one of the first releases for the Xbox Originals service for Xbox 360, allowing players to buy and download the game online.
2010 Intellivision for iPhone and iPad are released in app store by VH1 Classic. Microsoft includes a dozen Intellivision titles in their launch of GameRoom for Xbox Online. Intellivision Lives! for Nintendo DS hits stores for Christmas to rave reviews!
2012 Intellivision featured in "Art of Video Games" exhibit at Smithsonian
2014 Retail release of Intellivision Flashback console, by AtGames
2016 Blue Sky Rangers and Intellivision participate in SxSW in Austin, Texas. "Videogame Pioneers: Intellivision Panel + Meet & Greet"
2017 Founder Keith Robinson passes away on June 13.
2018 Exciting new partnership announced!
Still blocky after all these years.