Hardware: Amico UI Undermines Family Friendly Image

Downgrading our recommendation from “don’t buy” to “definitely don’t buy.”

The Intellivision Amico is a console that MMO Fallout has placed on our “don’t buy” list primarily due to our standard policy of recommending against pre-ordering anything. Normally hardware gets put on our list due to the inherent risks of a faulty batch; Nintendo for instance may be a reliable company but there is a non-zero risk that the Switch OLED first run might have had some unforeseen hardware fault.

But the Intellivision Amico has the added risk that the console might never actually ship. It’s a small risk, but one that absolutely exists. And our recommendation against pre-ordering was simply due to the fact that Intellivision currently holds no credibility in their promise that the console will ship in the foreseeable future, or at all for that matter. We are now well over a year after the original ship date and there is still no solid timeline. There is no guarantee that Intellivision doesn’t fold and go bankrupt before the console ships.

Now I have the unfortunate job of downgrading my already ground-floor level recommendation to something sitting in the metaphorical basement. A little over a week ago Intellivision released a sneak peek at their user interface, and it effectively collapsed any claim that the Amico is a family-friendly console and got me concerned that the company has abandoned or at least nudged aside its idea of avoiding predatory practices.

In the video, CEO Tommy Tallarico points out that the Intellivision Amico user interface displays all of the games that the person owns. What more, it displays all of the games a person doesn’t own, something that we’re not aware of existing on any other console. Imagine if your PlayStation listed every game on the system in your library and forced you to scroll through it whenever you wanted to play something.

The reason I bring this up as a severe detriment to Intellivision’s claim of being family friendly and avoiding predatory practices is two-fold. First, this is a console meant in large part to be enjoyed by children, and I think any parent can foresee the inevitable problems of sitting their kid in front of a bunch of games they can select but can’t play. It seems designed from the ground up to lead to a scenario where a child is buying games with credit card saved to the console and not understanding that they are doing so. At the very least, it seems guaranteed to cause friction between children and parents by serving as a constant reminder of the games a kid could have, but doesn’t.

The UI also appears to be geared toward psychological manipulation of the user, as the games you don’t own are grayed out and the games you own become vibrant and colorful. There’s little doubt that Intellivision is effectively turning the console UI into the impulse buy area of the checkout counter, where the games are only a few bucks and if you don’t buy them it’s an active eyesore on the interface screen. The UI also adds a sense of gratification to purchasing games, as the icon explodes with confetti. Again, a not-so-subtle mechanic to coerce impulse purchasers and completionists.

To our knowledge, the Intellivision Amico is set to launch with 26 games, and by Tommy’s own comments the interface will run the same game more than once as some will appear in multiple categories. That launch lineup is bloated enough, but Amico is expected to launch roughly one game per week by prior estimates. This means that by the end of year one (assuming they maintain that schedule) your interface will be loaded with 78 titles (not counting duplicates). By year 2 there will be at least 130 games not counting the duplicates listed in multiple categories. That is unfathomable interface bloat, and again seems designed to psychologically exploit particularly children by constantly presenting them with a list of games they cannot play. At worst into buying them without their parent’s knowledge, at best to bug their parents incessantly.

It’s entirely possible that the circumstances laid out were birthed from sheer incompetence rather than malicious intent, and there may be underlying infrastructure reasons to why the Amico is functionally incapable of not displaying games the user doesn’t own, or is incapable of hosting a segregated store interface. If that is the case, it hasn’t been put forward by Intellivision. Even accepting that theoretical, it wouldn’t do much to dampen the obvious psychological manipulation tactics on a console that advertises itself on family-friendly design and avoidance of the predatory tactics of bigger consoles.

The Switch may have games with microtransactions, but at least it doesn’t repeatedly punch you in the head whenever you want to find a game in your library.

For those reasons, I have to downgrade my recommendation on the Amico hardware from “wait until it’s actually out” to “avoid.” Especially for parents looking for a console for their kids. Intellivision undermines its own claims of having no ads by turning the console interface itself into a giant, unavoidable, bloated ad space for its titles that will only become more frustrating and bloated for the end-user as the company releases more titles.

In other words, it’s not good.

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