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Ars Technica article on Amico

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https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/06/what-the-hecks-an-intellivision-amico-consoles-leaky-dev-portal-offers-hints/

 

Frankly, I haven't paid much attention to the Amico lately, but just saw this article on Ars and was a bit surprised to see their take on this. I don't really have the time to dig through this sub-forum to see what all has been going on with the console, but judging from the article it appears that it's a bit less baked than I had understood a while ago. On top of that, the specs of the hardware coupled with the $10 price limit of games (and not to mention the article's speculation on the cut that Intellvision will take) makes me wonder why anyone would develop for this thing. It hardly seems like it will be a profitable venture for anyone. 

 

Like I said above, though, I simply haven't followed what's been going on with the console lately, although I was a bit interested in it a while back. I'm not trying to stir up a hornet's nest here, I just want to know what is actually going on with this.

 

 

 

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If it wasn't clear that this project is a laughingstock before, it is now.  No serious company threatens lawsuits over publicly available information.  

37A6398B-BA34-40B1-B97E-94D931CA78A7.jpeg

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I've been suggesting for a while now that developers may struggle to find making games for the Amico worthwhile, but Tommy and crew have been focusing on second-party development, which means the development studio (largely, typically) makes its cut up-front. I can't imagine a lot of third party interest, but that hasn't so far really seemed to be the point. 

 

On the specs: I mean, as the article stated, this has been publicly known for a while. Clearly the games look like mobile style games, what else do you need to come to your conclusion other than the specs and how games already look on it? If that is an issue for you, you maybe shouldn't be that interested to begin with. 

 

Also, seems like the parts aren't that far off from $250 in total, so whatever. 

 

What the article does seem to confirm is my belief that the Amico and cloud-based family/casual game services like AirConsole are indeed living in the same neighborhood. I'm expecting an end-user experience to be fairly similar. 

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32 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

If it wasn't clear that this project is a laughingstock before, it is now.  No serious company threatens lawsuits over publicly available information.  

37A6398B-BA34-40B1-B97E-94D931CA78A7.jpeg

I think regardless of how anyone feels about Amico itself, that article is not a good look for the company. Also, Tommy publicly threatening legal action against Ars Technica in a now deleted tweet was a bad move in my opinion.  There are now many highly respected members of the gaming community calling him out, like Frank Cifaldi.  Sam only referenced documents that INTV themselves allowed to be publicly viewed on their website.  Its on Tommy and whoever manages his website to keep private information safe from public view. 

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Very first sentence says it was introduced in 2018 as a crowdfunded console.  That never happened; and this is supposed to be journalism?

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I just read the article.  Unlike the CNET article from last fall, or some of the others I've read over the last year, it's not uninformed or biased in tone.  Yeah, the title isn't nice, but with 4 months to go before release, two missed release dates, no legit hands-on experience with the console, and some seriously dated, somewhat dodgy presentations by the Amico team in the last few weeks, aren't some hard questions to be expected?  This isn't 2019, and if they miss the 10/10/21 release...come on, that's a serious blow.

 

I haven't lost interest in the console, but my faith in Tommy and the team has deteriorated rapidly over the last 6 months, there's been too little info and too much smiley-faced spin.  Tommy's 'lawsuit!' tweet is unprofessional, and frankly legitimizes the content of the article.  Sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.  

 

Maybe it's time for Tommy to be the energy behind the Amico, and not the public face of the company.   His obsession with youtube trolls last summer and fall was concerning and kept me from investing beyond buying a couple consoles.  You can't run a company and take these things personally, it's too distracting.   Now it's way too close to the THIRD release date for this 'Trust us, we got it' public relations policy, a technique Tommy has publicly criticized when referring to other consoles, like the Atari VCS.   Sadly, when I see Tommy doing these presentations now, I no longer view him as an energetic, cool guy.  It's more 'aahh, here's the salesman again, what's he going to talk circles around this time?'  That's a shame, because I respect what he's trying to do and want the Amico to succeed.  

 

 

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Reading this was a bit of a deja vu, reminding me of things I was saying ~2 years ago, mainly about the huge discrepancy between the hugely restrictive "10 commandments" and actually getting devs interested in developing for this console. Then there's the quagmire of the games which have already been announced: slew of mostly rather bland titles, the likes of which are available either for free on smartphones/PCs or at low prices on already available consoles. It's really more and more resembling the "bringing coal to Newcastle" scenario.

 

These issues could be somewhat alleviated by using smart PR (at least in the pre & launch stage), but seeing these hopeless stock photos and trailers was cringe-worthy. I mean, come on, surely they should have either enough dosh to outsource making  a decent new press pack to some pros, or incentive in making more effort when doing it themselves. It's 2021, how difficult it can be to film and take snaps of some real people really playing with your real product?

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Posted (edited)

The article does mention the $10 game price restriction but also admitted his opinion is subjective and ambivalent.  The comment about a patch lockdown is just wrong.  He goes on to say that the profit margin for the developer is not great comparing it to IOS but fails to mention that in most cases IE is active in game design, contributes art, and audio; provides technical support and testing services, and even providing the development system at no charge, not to mention an advance on royalties.  Futher, the split with the developer depends on a number of factors.

 

Not sure what these comments on game profits are based on but it's not hard to come up with some estimates.  IE has revealed what system sales are required for profitability and it's modest.  A console install base of a few hundred thousand with a game attach rate as little as 10% can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for one game.  These are very conservative estimates.  Of course this all depends on Amico being succesful, so there is some risk.  IE however has taken all the risk away from the developer, which is why they have no problem getting them.  Publishers on the other hand will wait to see an install base develop before investing in Amico games.

 

He does opine that gameplay shown is simplistic but fails to mention the primary target audience is younger children and casuals.  Comparing the visuals to flash was uncalled for.  As was the accusation that video presentations are inauthentic.  And if someone can point out the stuttering footage in the E3 video, as I'd like to see what he's talking about.

 

Edited by mr_me

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1 hour ago, mr_me said:

The article does mention the $10 game price restriction but also admitted his opinion is subjective and ambivalent.  The comment about a patch lockdown is just wrong.  He goes on to say that the profit margin for the developer is not great comparing it to IOS but fails to mention that in most cases IE is active in game design, contributes art, and audio; provides technical support and testing services, and even providing the development system at no charge, not to mention an advance on royalties.  Futher, the split with the developer depends on a number of factors.

 

Not sure what these comments on game profits are based on but it's not hard to come up with some estimates.  IE has revealed what system sales are required for profitability and it's modest.  A console install base of a few hundred thousand with a game attach rate as little as 10% can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for one game.  These are very conservative estimates.  Of course this all depends on Amico being succesful, so there is some risk.  IE however has taken all the risk away from the developer, which is why they have no problem getting them.  Publishers on the other hand will wait to see an install base develop before investing in Amico games.

 

He does opine that gameplay shown is simplistic but fails to mention the primary target audience is younger children and casuals.  Comparing the visuals to flash was uncalled for.  As was the accusation that video presentations are inauthentic.  And if someone can point out the stuttering footage in the E3 video, as I'd like to see what he's talking about.

 

The profits he's talking about comes from the video he referenced. He said it was from a video to angel investors.

 

I think the stuttering was Farkle, card games, and maybe Shark Shark some. Check out the E3 footage around 8 min mark for Farkle. It doesn't look smooth.

 

The lockdown reads like the idea is to have games made without bugs and zero need for patches. Online play usually exposes bugs and keeping up with patches does not seem to be what Intellivision wants to do. 

 

My guess is the simplistic looks comment is in relation to the price of the console. Yes ONE of the targets is kids, but that doesn't mean the console isn't priced in a premium tier.

 

I think him calling them flash like is a great example as to how you should put your best foot forward in these presentations. I don't personally have an issue with how Fox looks. I think the Soccer and MLB games look way worse than FF. I've heard some refer to Flying Tigers as flash like but I though it looked fine from what we saw. 

 

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5 hours ago, mr_me said:

Very first sentence says it was introduced in 2018 as a crowdfunded console.  That never happened; and this is supposed to be journalism?

I've never really seen such a thing as actual video game journalism.  There's enthusiast press, and occasional good books.

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24 minutes ago, MrBeefy said:

The profits he's talking about comes from the video he referenced. He said it was from a video to angel investors.

...

He mentions that game revenues are split 50/50 with developers.  That's fine I'm not disputing that.  I'm questioning why he thinks it wouldn't be profitable for developers, since he offered no further explanation other than improperly comparing to the IOS model.  It looks more like developers are getting a good deal.

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6 minutes ago, mr_me said:

He mentions that game revenues are split 50/50 with developers.  That's fine I'm not disputing that.  I'm questioning why he thinks it wouldn't be profitable for developers, since he offered no further explanation other than improperly comparing to the IOS model.  It looks more like developers are getting a good deal.

Taking a lower cut on lower volume isn't a good move for developers.  The big boys take 30% and even that is frequently said to be too high.... even selling 10x as much.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

Taking a lower cut on lower volume isn't a good move for developers.  The big boys take 30% and even that is frequently said to be too high.... even selling 10x as much.

 

 

Agree.  50% of a very limited market where your pricing is capped at $10 a unit and you have no opportunity for DLC or any other margin enhancement is not an attractive proposition.  I thought the games were being funded and published by Intellivision though which makes the revenue share even stranger.  

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If developers want to self-publish like they are essentially doing on IOS than the deal would be completely different. But that's not what we're talking about.  They are essentially getting paid for their work, guaranteed in advance, with the potential of a future revenue stream.  They have no shortage of developers.

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5 minutes ago, mr_me said:

If developers want to self-publish like they are essentially doing on IOS than the deal would be completely different. But that's not what we're talking about.  They are essentially getting paid for their work, guaranteed in advance, with the potential of a future revenue stream.  They have no shortage of developers.

You seem to be unaware of the concept of opportunity cost.  Being paid for your work at who knows what rate with the potential for a minimal future revenue stream is just not going to attract the best developers.  You might be able to get developers looking for a side project or that don't typically do mainstream game development, but most developers are flush with opportunities, particularly in the mobile space where a hit game can spin off millions of dollars in royalties very easily.   

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10 minutes ago, mr_me said:

If developers want to self-publish like they are essentially doing on IOS than the deal would be completely different. But that's not what we're talking about.  They are essentially getting paid for their work, guaranteed in advance, with the potential of a future revenue stream.  They have no shortage of developers.

None of this is relevant.  You're still talking about developers getting a smaller percentage on fewer sales. That's not attractive.  

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, bojay1997 said:

You seem to be unaware of the concept of opportunity cost.  Being paid for your work at who knows what rate with the potential for a minimal future revenue stream is just not going to attract the best developers.  You might be able to get developers looking for a side project or that don't typically do mainstream game development, but most developers are flush with opportunities, particularly in the mobile space where a hit game can spin off millions of dollars in royalties very easily.   

Exactly, you don't know what the developers' advance is and they do.  They are also fully aware of the risk developing for a new platform from a new company.

 

Edit:  Is the mobile space attractive for developers.  My understanding is that hit games today require an enormous amount of advertising investment.  Unrealistic, for independent developers; maybe they can get lucky.

 

29 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

None of this is relevant.  You're still talking about developers getting a smaller percentage on fewer sales. That's not attractive.  

It is relevant.  Who's taking the risk and what each party brings to the project certainly means something on how revenues should be shared.  What's also relevant is that they do have developers and more games in the works than they can handle.

Edited by mr_me

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6 hours ago, supahwally said:

I just read the article.  Unlike the CNET article from last fall, or some of the others I've read over the last year, it's not uninformed or biased in tone.  Yeah, the title isn't nice, but with 4 months to go before release, two missed release dates, no legit hands-on experience with the console, and some seriously dated, somewhat dodgy presentations by the Amico team in the last few weeks, aren't some hard questions to be expected?  This isn't 2019, and if they miss the 10/10/21 release...come on, that's a serious blow.

 

I haven't lost interest in the console, but my faith in Tommy and the team has deteriorated rapidly over the last 6 months, there's been too little info and too much smiley-faced spin.  Tommy's 'lawsuit!' tweet is unprofessional, and frankly legitimizes the content of the article.  Sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.  

 

Maybe it's time for Tommy to be the energy behind the Amico, and not the public face of the company.   His obsession with youtube trolls last summer and fall was concerning and kept me from investing beyond buying a couple consoles.  You can't run a company and take these things personally, it's too distracting.   Now it's way too close to the THIRD release date for this 'Trust us, we got it' public relations policy, a technique Tommy has publicly criticized when referring to other consoles, like the Atari VCS.   Sadly, when I see Tommy doing these presentations now, I no longer view him as an energetic, cool guy.  It's more 'aahh, here's the salesman again, what's he going to talk circles around this time?'  That's a shame, because I respect what he's trying to do and want the Amico to succeed.  

 

 

I preordered a Founder's Edition and I also have a purple Amico preordered at Gamestop.  Having said that, there have been several major red flags that I have observed in the past year that have convinced me that the Amico is troubled. 

 

First, I don't believe that the development of the actual Amico hardware was completed in a timely manner.  While I realize that Covid may have played a role, there are plenty of consumer electronics devices that have been designed without anyone being in the same room.  Indeed, there are many devices that are essentially developed by teams around the world using e-mail, video conferencing and express shipping to finalize design and prototyping.  From what I have gathered, the Amico design wasn't finalized until earlier this year.  Given that timeline, I don't think any of the announced release dates were ever realistic, component shortages or not.  I also don't think that manufacturing can possibly be ramped up in time to make the October date with only three months notice.  That timeline just doesn't make any sense and it hasn't for a long time.  

 

Second, there has been a clear revolving door of executives in and out of the company and individuals that were touted as full-time executives who were in fact nothing more than part-time consultants.  Beyond J Allard, at one point Perrin Kaplan was supposed to be involved and Tommy made a big deal of a new high-level marketing executive who was going to become the day-to-day face of the console.  He even said this person would be the primary contact between online forums like this one and the company.  As far as I know, Tommy is still the primary marketing person and this other executive never assumed that role.  I think the most puzzling recent talent acquisition was Chuck LaBella who is a long-time reality casting executive.  While he clearly knows that business, he has zero background in video games or consumer products and it really isn't clear why a start-up would need an executive with that skill set this early in their existence.

 

Third, I have been personally turned off by some of the unnecessary turmoil that Tommy has personally been involved in.  Frankly, threatening lawsuits and engaging minor social media figures in ongoing public disputes is just not professional.  The reality is that there are many people out there with a platform and sinking to their level and attempting to rally support against them will only backfire.  I realize it's hard to walk away from a fight sometimes, but the appropriate response would be to ramp up marketing to counter-act the negative claims and not to engage in arguments or threats in an attempt to silence critics.  Ultimately, the product will succeed or fail on its own merits, but engaging in these petty ongoing conflicts will only turn off the very casual market that the Amico is design to appeal to.

 

At the end, I feel like I have only really risked $100 and it if works out, it works out.  If not, it has been an interesting journey full of ups and downs and it will serve as a helpful cautionary tale for the next time someone makes a similar attempt.     

 

  

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41 minutes ago, mr_me said:

Exactly, you don't know what the developers' advance is and they do.  They are also fully aware of the risk developing for a new platform from a new company.

 

Edit:  Is the mobile space attractive for developers.  My understanding is that hit games today require an enormous amount of advertising investment.  Unrealistic, for independent developers; maybe they can get lucky.

 

It is relevant.  Who's taking the risk and what each party brings to the project certainly means something on how revenues should be shared.  What's also relevant is that they do have developers and more games in the works than they can handle.

And the developers are taking all the risk, in this situation.  They're dedicating time to a port with a minimal return potential.  That's why it's a bad deal for developers. 

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13 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

And the developers are taking all the risk, in this situation.  They're dedicating time to a port with a minimal return potential.  That's why it's a bad deal for developers. 

How are the developers taking all the risk when they are getting paid an advance?  Now a case where they are porting an existing game is very different, they own their code, and would get a much better split of revenues in their favour.

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1 minute ago, mr_me said:

How are the developers taking all the risk when they are getting paid an advance?  Now a case where they are porting an existing game is very different, they own their code, and would get a much better split of revenues in their favour.

You just said we didn't know what kind of an advance the developers were getting.

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31 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

You just said we didn't know what kind of an advance the developers were getting.

After that last AAD, I really think this might be why we haven't seen much in the way of new stuff. If they pay for the games and they aren't making money, it makes me think they could be on empty waiting to get the Republic funds. AAD mentioned how not having money would be the reason to use cheaper stock photos. If they are potentially struggling in affording to take professional photos then where does that leave the game development in terms of monies?

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1 hour ago, bojay1997 said:

I preordered a Founder's Edition and I also have a purple Amico preordered at Gamestop.  Having said that, there have been several major red flags that I have observed in the past year that have convinced me that the Amico is troubled. 

 

First, I don't believe that the development of the actual Amico hardware was completed in a timely manner.  While I realize that Covid may have played a role, there are plenty of consumer electronics devices that have been designed without anyone being in the same room.  Indeed, there are many devices that are essentially developed by teams around the world using e-mail, video conferencing and express shipping to finalize design and prototyping.  From what I have gathered, the Amico design wasn't finalized until earlier this year.  Given that timeline, I don't think any of the announced release dates were ever realistic, component shortages or not.  I also don't think that manufacturing can possibly be ramped up in time to make the October date with only three months notice.  That timeline just doesn't make any sense and it hasn't for a long time.  

 

Second, there has been a clear revolving door of executives in and out of the company and individuals that were touted as full-time executives who were in fact nothing more than part-time consultants.  Beyond J Allard, at one point Perrin Kaplan was supposed to be involved and Tommy made a big deal of a new high-level marketing executive who was going to become the day-to-day face of the console.  He even said this person would be the primary contact between online forums like this one and the company.  As far as I know, Tommy is still the primary marketing person and this other executive never assumed that role.  I think the most puzzling recent talent acquisition was Chuck LaBella who is a long-time reality casting executive.  While he clearly knows that business, he has zero background in video games or consumer products and it really isn't clear why a start-up would need an executive with that skill set this early in their existence.

 

Third, I have been personally turned off by some of the unnecessary turmoil that Tommy has personally been involved in.  Frankly, threatening lawsuits and engaging minor social media figures in ongoing public disputes is just not professional.  The reality is that there are many people out there with a platform and sinking to their level and attempting to rally support against them will only backfire.  I realize it's hard to walk away from a fight sometimes, but the appropriate response would be to ramp up marketing to counter-act the negative claims and not to engage in arguments or threats in an attempt to silence critics.  Ultimately, the product will succeed or fail on its own merits, but engaging in these petty ongoing conflicts will only turn off the very casual market that the Amico is design to appeal to.

 

At the end, I feel like I have only really risked $100 and it if works out, it works out.  If not, it has been an interesting journey full of ups and downs and it will serve as a helpful cautionary tale for the next time someone makes a similar attempt.     

 

  

You hit several of my main issues with the Amico here. I was physically at the launch event at PRGE, and I've spoken with Tommy in person. He's a decent enough guy, and his passion for this system is absolutely genuine.... and that's the problem. 

 

Everything about the project SCREAMS 'passion project', with all of the red flags that entails:

  • He's personally involved in and controlling literally everything, and seems to be the sole marketer. This is a huge mistake, and this latest twitter snafu is the biggest in a long line of marketing mistakes.
  • He's gone the Peter Molyneaux / Ouya /No Man's Sky route of over promising features too soon before development has made that a sure thing, leading to a lack of trust by the public.
  • He isn't 100% honest. I was at the launch event, and listened to him wax poetic about how the Amico (and I quote) will have the 'first custom 2d graphics chip in decades' that is designed to handle 2d entirely, and not 3d, and which will handle 'millions of sprites'. He also promised that 'all games' will have an online leaderboard system to track achievements. Neither of these seem to be remotely the case, and this latest leak more or less confirms it. Certainly, the games so far do not even REMOTELY show off some revolutionary 2d tech... they look like cheap tablet/flash games, for the most part.
  • He absolutely CANNOT take constructive criticism. I mentioned, as did others, how 'cheap' and 'cell phone like' the game demos looked in the big thread he was responding to here (and several other issues), only to be flatly dismissed by him. Many of these complaints are now featured front and center in this article. If he'd listened to a lot of early adopters and adapted his marketing strategy, we wouldn't be here right now.
  • He's kind of a jerk online to anyone who challenges or even questions anything about the Amico. When legitimate issues or concerns are raised, they are met with 'we haven't done that yet' or 'that's not a concern" or 'you don't know what you're talking about'. Actually, Tommy, we're your market. We kinda do.
  • There have been a ton of failed 'indie consoles'. His continued marketing snafus, bad E3 presentation, and now this latest, childish twitter freak out have completely undermined faith in him and his console.

All of this together has taken the Amico from my #1 most anticipated indie project and squarely put it in the 'if this ever even comes out, it's gonna be another Ouya' category. I'd love to be wrong. But I don't think I am, sadly.

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20 minutes ago, Lord Thag said:

You hit several of my main issues with the Amico here. I was physically at the launch event at PRGE, and I've spoken with Tommy in person. He's a decent enough guy, and his passion for this system is absolutely genuine.... and that's the problem. 

 

Everything about the project SCREAMS 'passion project', with all of the red flags that entails:

  • He's personally involved in and controlling literally everything, and seems to be the sole marketer. This is a huge mistake, and this latest twitter snafu is the biggest in a long line of marketing mistakes.
  • He's gone the Peter Molyneaux / Ouya /No Man's Sky route of over promising features too soon before development has made that a sure thing, leading to a lack of trust by the public.
  • He isn't 100% honest. I was at the launch event, and listened to him wax poetic about how the Amico (and I quote) will have the 'first custom 2d graphics chip in decades' that is designed to handle 2d entirely, and not 3d, and which will handle 'millions of sprites'. He also promised that 'all games' will have an online leaderboard system to track achievements. Neither of these seem to be remotely the case, and this latest leak more or less confirms it. Certainly, the games so far do not even REMOTELY show off some revolutionary 2d tech... they look like cheap tablet/flash games, for the most part.
  • He absolutely CANNOT take constructive criticism. I mentioned, as did others, how 'cheap' and 'cell phone like' the game demos looked in the big thread he was responding to here (and several other issues), only to be flatly dismissed by him. Many of these complaints are now featured front and center in this article. If he'd listened to a lot of early adopters and adapted his marketing strategy, we wouldn't be here right now.
  • He's kind of a jerk online to anyone who challenges or even questions anything about the Amico. When legitimate issues or concerns are raised, they are met with 'we haven't done that yet' or 'that's not a concern" or 'you don't know what you're talking about'. Actually, Tommy, we're your market. We kinda do.
  • There have been a ton of failed 'indie consoles'. His continued marketing snafus, bad E3 presentation, and now this latest, childish twitter freak out have completely undermined faith in him and his console.

All of this together has taken the Amico from my #1 most anticipated indie project and squarely put it in the 'if this ever even comes out, it's gonna be another Ouya' category. I'd love to be wrong. But I don't think I am, sadly.

Yep.  It's the "Just wait, you'll see" tactic that triggered me.  Every other one of these FauxRetro consoles has tried that, always saying customers shouldn't ask questions and would just be wowed at the end.  And in each case, the customer's fears were entirely justified and the consoles disappointed massively. 
 

Amico is going to be the same thing. Tommy isn't taking honest inquiry seriously, and his box is shaping up to be another footnote.  

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