Where's My New Old Stuff?
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Apr 7th 2021
Everything Old is New Again?
It’s been a weird couple of years in terms of attempted vintage console revivals. In the old days before Nintendo reinvented home video gaming with the NES, the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and ColecoVision ruled the roost. Sure, there were others like the Odyssey2 and Channel F, but those were the big three in the old days. And for some reason, there was this strange wave in recent years of companies trying to break those brands back into the limelight with new hardware right next to the latest offerings from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
Release dates were announced, pre-orders were taken, and a global pandemic swept the planet. So where are they now?
A console of a different color
First up, let’s look at ColecoVision since this is the strangest story of them all. A few years back, a new print magazine dedicated to retro gaming aptly titled Retro Videogame Magazine appeared. It was a great idea, as people love collecting physical goods, and a regular magazine dedicated to that very hobby seemed swell. Then things took a turn for the bizarre.
The minds behind that magazine decided that it was time for them to make their own brand new cartridge-based video game console called the Retro VGS. This wouldn’t seem all THAT strange if it weren’t for the fact that it was shaped like an Atari Jaguar. As in, they literally used the same mold. They were going to make a new console out of an old console. But it only got weirder from there.
After the initial wave of backlash from the Jaguar design, they not only stuck to their guns, but they rebranded in the process. The RetroVGS was now the Coleco Chameleon. Intended to fill the shoes of a proper ColecoVision successor, Coleco (or whatever was left of the company that owned the name at the time) officially licensed the thing and we were on track to get a brand new Coleco console.
Then it all fell apart. It turned out there really wasn’t much of a system in that Jaguar corpse, and after it was discovered they were using a Super NES stuffed in a Chameleon shell at a trade show, Coleco pulled their name from the project, and the console was declared dead.
But Coleco wasn’t done! Seemingly taking advantage of having their name in the spotlight once again, Coleco started releasing new products like mini arcade units.
Their website hasn’t been active for a while now, but they still have a few things listed as upcoming projects, and their Twitter account still occasionally makes some noises. They even started up a Coleco convention, which has since gone quiet, but hey, something is something.
So, it looks like Coleco might be more or less a dead brand once again, but who knows what they’ll come up with next? Maybe we’ll see them resurface soon.
Make Television Intelligent Again
Next, let’s check in with Intellivision. Back in the old days, Intellivision was Mattel’s entry into the video games business. It stood for “Intelligent Television,” and it beat Coleco to the market by a couple of years.
It had a considerable bump in power over the immensely popular Atari 2600, but it had its own quirks as well, including a bizarre hardwired controller that used a disc instead of a joystick. It was a step towards the eventuality of the D-pad, but it wasn’t the most precise method of controlling things anyone had ever seen.
Once the US games industry crashed, Mattel decided to leave the business altogether, but the Intellivision brand lived on in the background. Over the decades that followed, occasional Intellivision compilations hit some modern consoles, and following the success of the Atari Flashback plug and play system, an Intellivision version popped up too.
But a few years ago, none other than Tommy Tallarico, video game music composer and sort of game industry jack of all trades, became the CEO of the all new Intellivision Entertainment, and decided it was time to launch a brand new Intellivision console!
Dubbed the Amico (a name I’m still personally not all that fond of) this new console would take certain visual cues from the original Intellivision while revitalizing it in a way entirely different from the conventional perception of a modern game console.
The marketing of this thing has been… interesting to say the least, and there’s been no shortage of controversy surrounding its various videos and sales pitches, including a bizarre feud between Tallarico and Pat & Ian of the CUPodcast.
There have been some questionable videos to be sure, and the games it will apparently be launching with range from incredibly cool like Choice Provisions’ slick new take on Breakout, to the downright depressing Finnigan Fox, but it certainly is a fascinating piece of technology. We even interviewed Tommy Tallarico about it on our podcast a while back, and it was quite an enlightening experience.
Unfortunately, we’re told the Amico has been hit hard by Covid and it’s been delayed from its initial release date more than once. It’s now scheduled to release on October 10th, 2021.
Will it hit that release date? It’s difficult to say. Considering how early in development a lot of the games they’ve shown off seem to be, the realism of that original release date is a bit suspect, but one thing is true: This is not the Coleco Chameleon. Whether or not it’s worth the money (the launch price is a somewhat steep $249.99) remains to be seen, but people have played the unit. It exists, and that certainly should count for something.
The controller raises a lot of concerns with its touch screen and modern take on those wacky disc pads, the games library of all exclusive titles has already been shown to be full of technicalities (See: Finnegan Fox), and their claims of bringing back couch co-op in a world where the Nintendo Switch not only exists but absolutely thrives don’t really sit well, but it does look like it at least wants to tread its own path, and it’s going to be interesting to see how things go come this October.
Have You Played Atari Today?
Finally, we have good ol’ Atari. Atari was once THE brand in the world of video games. They practically invented the industry, and the 2600 Video Computer System remains one of the most important pieces of gaming history ever. They were never really able to follow up on that success though. 5200, 7800, Jaguar, they all had their share of interesting titles, but were in no way fierce competition for their contemporaries.
A few years ago, the Atari brand went on a revitalizing spree. They made some ridiculous hats with speakers in them, and they announced an all new nebulous system called the AtariBox.
Then they decided to rename it the Atari VCS, because apparently having one system named the Atari VCS just wasn’t enough.
For years people were certain this system was going to be vaporware, but then against all odds, some pre-ordered units actually shipped. There was almost universal praise for the snazzy new joystick, but that was about it. The system functions… fine? But there really isn’t anything all that special about it. It’s a mini PC in a really cool-looking Atari shell, but it doesn’t have much in terms of games, the HUD isn’t anything to write home about, and no developers seem to be taking the platform seriously.
Honestly, this thing’s existence is a complete mystery. At least with Chameleon and Amico, it was apparent which audience they were trying to court. The VCS though, doesn’t seem to be for anybody other than Atari fanatics with a lot of money to burn. The unit is expected to start at $299.99, and still has no official release date.
It’s entirely possible that the units sent out are going to be it, and the rest of that sweet Indiegogo money they raised will mysteriously vanish for all eternity, but I’m going to remain somewhat optimistic and believe their promised launch will indeed happen. I’d love to live in a world where Atari did something, anything to rebuild its brand. It’s EXTREMELY unlikely, but heck, a guy can dream.
So what does this all mean? Well, classic gaming brands are harder to revive than one might think. One thing’s for certain though, it’s all going to be interesting to watch.