Rant: Intellivision Selling Games You Can’t Play

You can buy, but you just can’t play.

Ethical disclosure: I pre-ordered Amico product.

The Intellivision Amico is at this juncture in time probably the worst investment you could make in a console, barring perhaps a second-hand Ouya or bucket of inert uranium with “StayPlation 3” scribbled on the side in marker. It’s not out yet, it keeps getting delayed, and there’s no reason to not wait until it’s actually out to buy it. I may be exaggerating with that comparison, since at least a bucket of inert uranium is likely to keep its resale value in case you need to offload it on someone in the future. I’m not convinced about the Amico’s staying value.

I am impressed by Intellivision’s consistent outward confidence in its own solvency while also being a company that doesn’t have the main product it’s making and always has its hand out for just another five bucks for a pack of smokes, oh and you’ll get your rent when you get it. Intellivision finally unveiled their “physical media” this week and as has become commonplace, it’s not as impressive as the ever-charismatic Tommy Tallarico teased it out to be through the usual process of very vague references.

One positive thing I will say about the Amico physical games is that they are the most consumer-friendly idea for digital ownership that I’ve ever seen from a video game company (ignoring the environmental impact of NFTs). The “carts” are literally just RFID cards that turn the games into transferrable NFTs whose ownership resides on the blockchain out in cyberspace with the doohickeys and tchotchkes and the mumbo jumbo hokey pokey verbal diarrhea insert-your-marketing-terms-here.

What this boils down to is simply that you can actually sell your digital games. Now the real consumer-friendly thing to do would be to have physical media be actual physical media like a pre-loaded SD card. The collector’s editions sell at a massive markup that doesn’t really justify its increased expense at $20 for games that should cost upwards of $10 (when bought digitally), maybe less, and the games themselves are just codes that you still have to download from Intellivision’s servers. They don’t do anything special other than automatically punch in a product key, with the added benefit that you can remove a key from one account and transfer it to another, something I don’t think any other console does with digital games. You also don’t need to be connected to the internet to play games.

You’ll also apparently be able to take your digital games with your controller, meaning if you somehow know someone in real life who also buys an Amico and wants to play it with you, you can load your digital ownership onto the controller and take it over to their house to play the games. It’s also impossible to scam people by selling them used cards, as you can apparently revoke the game from its tagged console simply by tapping it twice. For that I think Intellivision deserves some kudos, because this is extra work that ultimately works against their future sales by creating a secondary digital market.

See, my problem is that the games are on sale now.

You can buy the Amico physical games right now, which is crazy since none of them have launched as the Amico still does not have a release date. The Amico could come out in December. It might come out in October 2035. Perhaps Intellivision declares bankruptcy in Spring fiscal 2023 and it never releases. Barring that, the games themselves don’t have a release date adjacent to the Amico either.

And Intellivision is adding onto the grease stain by artificially limiting the number of collector edition cases while pushing them out before a release window exists, let alone a set date, playing on the fear of missing out to get people to buy presently functionless NFT cards. FOMO almost always gets low scores in my book.

It also doesn’t help that you can only buy the games right now as a four pack for $80 or an eight pack for $150, no individual sales. Yes, Intellivision got $100 as a down payment from its earliest pre-orders and is still waiting on the other $150 before the console ships. But what about second $150? Wasn’t this system supposed to be really affordable? On the sunny side, at least Intellivision isn’t trying to double dip on the six pack-in games. But if you really want some Amico-related doodads for your shelf so you can look at them and think about how the Amico still isn’t out, you absolutely can throw down half the price of a Nintendo Switch.

The boxes themselves are neat looking, I will grant you that, and I’m not going to fault Intellivision as a small company looking to get some extra investment off of its conglomerate of very dedicated fans. There’s also no reason to assume that the slow-as-potatoes manufacturing of the console was in any way hindered by printing cardboard boxes in Yurp and putting some RFID cards inside them. It’s clear from the get-go that this isn’t meant for the general audience, Tommy actually says in the video announcement that people were asking why they can’t just buy the games now.

I’m not going to throw stones at those who buy into this. But as with many things surrounding the Amico’s marketing I still have to say it is not good optics for the general audience to be shipping out games so early. If it gets Intellivision the parts they need to actually get me my console sooner, it’s an optic I can live with. If this is an indication that systems are closer to shipping out for those who ordered them, even better. I won’t go down the hyperbolic route of your average nitwit drama channel on YouTube and claim this is clearly a move of desperation from a company teetering on insolvency. But it does give those channels extra ammo. When the system is out, few will remember this scenario and those who do probably won’t care.

At the end of the day, I will say that I have kept my deposit on the Amico despite having nothing preventing me from withdrawing my money. I have never and will never imply or insinuate that there’s anything shady going on by Tommy or Intellivision, and I’m not going to go down the route of calling it a scam or saying that he’s swindling people. If either of us has a reason to distrust the other, it’d be Tommy wondering as he falls asleep every night if me crashing out the system at the Crayola event was really an accident. Where’d I put that check from Atari?

I suppose the most important message here is that Dominos will sell you a two-topping pizza for $6 if you buy two or more qualifying items from the menu, and if you buy a wood panel edition Amico console and the $150 game pack, then Tommy will let you eat that pizza and added chocolate lava cake in the passenger seat of his fancy sports car, and you can cite this if he says no. I’ve played 40 hours of Far Cry 6 over the last three days and sleep is for the weak.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter.

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