The Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time

The Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 21st Dec 2011

(2) Mattel -- Intellivision
(2nd Gen April 1979)

A portmanteau of "intelligent television" the Intellivision began its life as something of a disaster. It was originally conceived to be a home video game console whose strengths were its very capable graphics system and a sound system that was well ahead of the competition, but its primary selling point -- and the reason that many consumers ended up choosing it over less expensive rival consoles -- was that it expanded into a full-blown computer with keyboard and data storage via cassette tape, as well as a thermal printer -- or it would when that add-on device was released that is.

By 1982 the Intellivision had sales of more than 2-million units, had established its own in-house game development arm at Mattel, and had so large a market share that the game divisions at Atari and Activision were actually creating and publishing games for the console.

The problem was that the Keyboard Component that was supposed to turn the console into a computer never materialized. It was not so much that it was vaporware -- it wasn't -- but the development of the device ran into so many problems with cost and durability that Mattel was forced to push its release date back again and again as it tried to solve them.

In the end the toy maker failed to resolve them fast enough, and consumer disappointment in that failure resulted in government hearings and, eventually, official charges being filed against the company by the Federal Trade Commission for fraud and false advertising. In spite of Mattel releasing some units to retailers in small numbers, the FTC hit it with fines of $10,000/day until the promised computer upgrade was in full retail distribution, so the company put the unit into full production and began distributing it even though it was badly flawed.

In addition to serving as a road map for what not to do in the development of future consoles, the Intellivision made several important contributions to the video game community and game console tech -- and while it may very well have been the first major game company to generate what would later be termed Vaporware that was not one of them!

The first significant and impacftul contribution that it made was its Intellivoice add-on peripheral to be sure, but this was but one among many important contributions that the Intellivision made to console gaming, inducing:

-- It was the first 16-bit game console, featuring a 16 bit-wide NPU;

-- It introduced the full 16-direction directional pad (D-Pad) that became an industry standard and can be found today on your standard gamepad;

-- It was the first game console to feature a musical synthesizer keyboard peripheral;

-- It was the first video game console with support for downloadable games when, in 1981, General Instrument teamed up with Mattel to create the PlayCable device that allowed the Intellivision to download games via cable TV;

-- It introduced voice in video games to the community and industry.

In 1982 Mattel introduced the Intellivoice, a voice synthesis device which produced speech when used with certain video games. For the first time in the industry games were being created that featured speech as an integral part of the game play rather than just a bare gimmick, and while the Intellivoice was not a major commercial success for the company, it quickly caught on with gamers and console makers, becoming an industry standard feature on console hardware in the following generations.