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silentshadow56

What was the process of releasing an Intellivision game back in the 80s?

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I recently discovered the white cartridge label variations for the Intellivision and how the Intellivision brand changed hands several times of the course of it's life and it's spurred me to dig deep into the fascinating history of this brand. With that being said I was interested to know how much control Mattel had over what games were released on the Intellivision?

 

For instance if I'm not mistaken, and please correct me if I am, one of the biggest issues with the 2600 was the flood of poorly developed games that were released for the console because Atari didn't have any strict regulations on it. I know that it was because of this that developers were only allowed to release 3 titles a year for the NES and that developers had to essentially had to have Nintendo themselves produce the cartridges. 

 

Did Mattel have similar restrictions on the Intellivision or was it that companies weren't really concerned with releasing games? Again, please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like 85% of the titles were all developed in house by Mattel with very few titles coming from Activision, Parker Brothers, Imagic, and one release from Sega towards the end. Again, was this because Mattel had some kind of restrictions or did the companies think the install base wasn't big enough?

 

Any additional insight that could be provided on the history of the brand before it was formed into Intellivision Inc. would be greatly appreciated!

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Posted (edited)

Mattel had no control over third parties publishing Intellivision cartridges.  When Mattel created the Intellivision they didn't foresee third party publishers so there's no security lock of any kind.  Once third parties started making cartridges Mattel was very concerned; cartridges were very profitable for Mattel.  And when they made the Intellivision II they added a security check but it was weak and third party publishers quickly figured it out.

 

Intellivision third party publishing started later than the Atari 2600, 1982 I believe.  The install base was big enough to potentially sell a million copies of a cartridge so it was significant.  However that same year came newer systems like colecovision and the commodore 64.  In 1983 publishers attention started to shift to other systems.  And during the life of Intellivision (1979-1990), the Intellivision IP changed hands once.

Edited by mr_me

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I don't think Mattel was doing anything to discourage third parties, except maybe locking out Coleco games from the Intellivision 2. There were quite a lot of 3rd party games on the Intellivision, and the reason there were fewer than on Atari 2600 was just because there weren't as many units out there. 

 

My favorite place for learning more about the platform is the excellent (if sometimes overlong) podcast called The Intellivisionaries. There's quite a back catalog of interviews. It would be fine to jump around and focus on the games you particularly liked. Also make sure to listen to the shows featuring the late Keith Robinson, who was there from the beginning and is a lot fo fun to listen to. @nurmix is the host and he's here on AtariAge from time to time. 

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@mr_me and @Flojomojo thanks for the responses and will look into the Intellivisionaries as just always trying to expand my knowledge base. 

 

I guess I'm just trying to see how many games Mattel originally released and going off of the list on "the blue sky rangers" site it looks like Mattel originally released close to if not 60 games? Were these games all internally developed my Mattel or at the very least outsourced/contracted to a programmer that was developing the game exclusively for the Intellivision? I know at least in the case of the "M Network" those were games that were released by Mattel to be played on the Atari 2600

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Posted (edited)

When the Intellivision was initially in development all the software was created by a contracted consultant, APh Technological Consultants.  They programmed the first set of Intellivision cartridges before Mattel started programming their own cartridges.  Mattel did have artists on staff who contributed graphics and concepts for these early games.   APh continued to program cartridges for Mattel including some for the Atari 2600.

Edited by mr_me

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I think the biggest impediment to third party publishing on the Intellivision was the scarcity of suppliers for the 10-bit ROMs required. Even more than the reverse engineering required. Mattel originally had the supply pretty much locked up.

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The other thing Mattel did is they sued former employees who left Mattel to program Intellivision cartridges for competitors.

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