In 1979, the Atari 2600 was the reigning king of the home video game market. There were no other companies around to challenge it until December, when Mattel Electronics, a division of the Mattel Toy Company, released their game console, named Intellivision (standing for "Intelligent Television"). By the end of their first year, they found themselves sold out of approximately 200,000 units.
In 1976, Richard Chang, of Mattel Toys had the idea of manufacturing a videogame system utilizing a General Instruments Gimini 6900 16-bit chip. In 1978, after extensive plans were made, a group from Mattel's Design and Development team, led by Dave Chandler, began engineering the hardware. The unique idea behind the design of the system was in the function of allowing programmers the ability to define new graphics for each new game. In December 1979, Mattel Electronics introduced the Intellivision console to American consumers. It retailed for $299. In advertisements they emphasized the superior graphics their system offered over the Atari 2600.
In June 1980, Mattel marketed PlayCable with Jerrold, a cable television provider. Cable subscribers who signed up for PlayCable needed to purchase an adapter for $48. It plugged into the Intelevision system through the cartridge port. For six to ten dollars a month, users could select from a limited number of Intellivision titles twenty-four hours a day. It was introduced to a select number of cities and though it was reportedly popular, PlayCable was discontinued in 1983.
In April 1981, Mattel unveiled plans for the Keyboard Component. By fitting the Master Component (the original system) into the announced Keyboard Component, users could convert the Intellivision console into a 64k home computer. It would be capable of providing many more purposes than just playing games. In development, it soon became obvious that the manufacturing costs for the keyboard would be outrageously high. It would retail for $700. Mattel discontinued the Keyboard Component after producing only 4,000 units.
In 1982, Mattel unveiled IntelliVoice. It is a voice-synthesis adapter. It is fastens to the cartridge outlet of the console. When specially made cartridges are plugged into it, the games speak to players using a human sounding voice. According to Mattel, "You concentrate on the visual action while your IntelliVoice component keeps you aware of depleting energy levels, shield damages, and attacking fighters."
The games released for Intellivoice were: Tron Solar Sailor, Bomb Squad, Space Spartans, B-17 Bomber and World Series Major League Baseball.
Also in 1982, Intellivision II was released. The difference to the original system is mainly in the console design. It is smaller and sleeker. It was designed with more efficient and cheaper circuitry. The controllers on Intellivision II are detachable and replaceable. When it was released, several of the Coleco Intellivision games would not play on Intellivision II. According to the Blue Sky Rangers, designers of the Intellivision system, "The reason the Intellivision II doesn't work with the Coleco games is that it was designed not to." However, once Intellivision II was in stores, Coleco programmers caught on to the design change and were able to correct the problem.
In 1982, the ColecoVision system was introduced to the American public. It offered superior graphics in comparison to the Atari 2600 and Intellivision systems. This fact undermined Mattel's marketing strategy of selling Intellivision as the most advanced video game system available. In June of 1982 Mattel privately announced that they were in the process of developing Intellivision III, a console designed with more advanced graphics than ColecoVision and which, unlike Atari's ill-fated 5200, could still play all of the cartridges for the original system. because of delays in part caused by an attempt to install a built-in IntelliVoice, the Intellivision III project was abandoned.
In January 1983, Mattel introduced the Entertainment Computer System (ECS). The Blue Sky Rangers explain the motivation behind introducing it. "The Federal Trade Commission was starting to look into fraud charges against Mattel for not releasing the Intellivision Keyboard Component. Key People... started looking for something they could release in its place."
The ECS plugs into the cartridge outlet of the Intellivision II system. It contains: (1) a Music Synthesizer, featuring a 49 key keyboard, and a Melody Blaster cartridge application to utilize it (note: Melody Blaster is the only cartridge application released for the keyboard.) (2) A System Changer, which is an adapter that plugs into the Intellivision II. It provides the ability to play Atari 2600 cartridges thus eliminating the need to purchase the rival system. Also included are two more controller ports modified for the use of 2600 joysticks. Unfortunately, Coleco had just beaten Mattel by releasing the Expansion Module #1 in August 1982. It also allowed users of ColecoVision to play Atari 2600 cartridges.
In March 1984, the rights to the Intellivision system were sold for $16.5 million to an investment group headed by the senior vice-president of Mattel Electronics, Terrence Valeski. In November 1984, the company was renamed INTV.
In October 1985, the INTV System III (also known as the Super Pro System) was introduced for only $59.95. It is another repackaging of the Intellivision master component, this time in a black case. INTV also announced the re- release of all of the original Intellivision titles at between $9.95 and $19.95 each.
Later, in 1987, the design of the INTV System IV was announced but was never released.
In 1990, INTV ceased the retail sale of their system and cartridges. They sold their products only by mail order. In 1991, after total sales of over three million consoles, INTV liquidated its stock and Intellivision was off the gaming market forever.
There were 125 titles released for the Intellivision and INTV systems. The Best Games are: Thunder Castle, Shark! Shark!, Loco-Motion, Thin Ice and Buzz Bombers ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide