Retronomicon: I Tried That Intellivision Amico

Tommy Tallarico was there.

(Editor’s Note: For ethical disclosure purposes, I will note here that I put a $100 deposit down on the Amico last year for review purposes. I spent my own gas money and bought my own ticket to check out the Amico as a regular member of the public and under no pretense that I was there as press. To the best of my knowledge nobody at Intellivision knows this website exists, and Tommy assumes I’m just a dude on Twitter who replies to his tweets with memes from time to time. None of today transpired under their knowledge or expectation that I might be a game journo type and that I might write something from my trip.)

Those of you who read MMO Fallout know that making a joke and taking it way too far are just things that I do here, like buying the “tears of my enemies” mug from Hobby Lobby which still gets used to this day for my iced coffee, ruining the MassivelyOP Podcast with my presence, or in this case driving down to Pennsylvania to fulfill my promise of being socially awkward in the presence of Tommy Tallarico. I spent the equivalent of a working day’s time in my car for the payoff of spending about two and a half hours playing and watching people play an upcoming gaming console.

Was it worth it? Depends on how you qualify “worth it.” I say yes, most of my readers will probably say no. So normal outcomes. I have not slept in the last two days.

Despite being held in the Crayola factory, the Amico booth was flanked both by a cabal of Amico YouTubers as well as a professional security company who looked like they could very easily squash me into a basketball like a scene straight out of a cartoon. So my plans for an Ocean’s 11 style heist of an Amico console were called off due to weather, and the fact that everyone seemed to recognize me already. Must have been the mask.

I’ve said before that Tommy Tallarico has enough charm to fill a hotel swimming pool, and that the guy is an expert-tier marketer, and that was fully on display watching as he zipped around the booth with a prolonged case of the zoomies. There were a few dozen spectators in the area at any given time, and Tommy is one of those people who can manage all of them while making you feel like you’re his only priority. One second he’d be showing a kid how to use the controller, another he’d be chatting up some parents, and then he’d be on the other side of the room doing some brand chant with the crew. One day they’re going to harvest a fraction of his pep, dilute it a thousand times, and sell it as a powerful holistic energy supplement.

The two games on display were Shark Shark and Astrosmash. Shark Shark is a game where players eat fish to grow their own fish while avoiding being eaten by bigger fish. Astrosmash is a bit like Asteroids meets missile command, where you blow up asteroids before they smash you. Get it? The good news is that the rumored input lag doesn’t exist, or at least it no longer does in this iteration of the firmware. The controller itself takes some getting used to since both games utilize the wheel for movement and full touch screen as a single button. At least with these two games there’s no real shifting attention between the two screens.

I did accidentally serve my purpose of slightly flustering Mr. Tallarico, since I gave the controller a light flick on the back to check the plastic casing and it immediately shut off. Evidently I have the greatest timing known to man since I was told that at that exact moment the controller’s battery died and after we got it plugged in via USB it eventually turned back on. I did accidentally bring the Astrosmash table to a grinding halt for a short period while they got the controller charged enough to turn on and had to reboot the console a couple times to get it to sync back up, and for the rest of my play time on Astrosmash the image on the screen was stuck upside down. Curse my magnetized cranial plate.

Spend enough time in the crowd and you do see a lot of families coming to check out the Amico, kids who have no clue what Shark Shark or the Intellivision brand is having a boatload of fun playing it regardless. The primary market for the Amico definitely favors back to the Wii-era of family game night over the hardcore gamer. But the most poignant part of all of this is that the system is proving itself as popular among the people who play it.

Will it compete with the mainstream consoles? No, but as I was told repeatedly by Mr. Tallarico and the other presenters, that’s not their goal. Which gives me more faith in the console’s ability to soldier on post-launch because everyone here at MMO Fallout knows exactly what happens when an MMO launches with World of Warcraft numbers in its sight and doesn’t hit those goals. If Intellivision is still working on its post-launch plans, they certainly have built a nearly impenetrable wall of public-facing confidence.

I did catch a glimpse at the dev board list of games when my shenanigans caused a forced reboot. It would have been nice to play more of them. Or the other two, but nobody wants to be the lone adult hogging the video game console at the Crayola factory. Also the crew was really good about shuffling people on and off when there was a line.

The quality for the Amico and controllers now that I’ve seen both in person is fine. I wanted to ask if the controllers were being built like the Wii, with the expectation that kids would be playing and thus built to withstand more drops and bumps. I never got the chance. The Amico controller is plastic, was far more comfortable for longer play sessions than I expected, and it felt light but not quite cheap. Closer on the spectrum to the material used in the Switch pro controller without the heavy guts. I wasn’t about to field test its durability by dropping the controller because I didn’t want one of the burly security dudes to field test how many times my spine can be bent like a sheet of paper.

The Tommy Tallarico that I saw at this event was the one I’d like to see more of in upcoming Amico interviews. I haven’t been hesitant in my criticism over the last year of Mr. Tallarico’s pension for petty schoolyard insults traded with YouTubers on Twitter and in interviews, and how it doesn’t help the brand when their CEO is ranting about haters. The vast majority of people the Amico seems geared toward don’t know or care who any of these people are. The version that I saw today was far more interested in the important part of showing people a console; actually showing them the console. And the results looked successful, people were having fun and some even went to the Real World testimony booth to give their good word for the Amico. I didn’t do that.

I did eventually leave because my brain tends to shut down in very loud environments. The Crayola factory was an interesting place otherwise.

So has the whole experience turned me into an Amico stan? Am I going to buy stock in Intellivision? No. I still have a lot of questions about the Amico and Intellivision. Otherwise my enthusiasm stock is presently still being traded in anticipation for the next time I watch Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway, the latest film by director Miguel Llanso. In fact I’ll probably fall asleep in front of it tonight.

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