Gamasutra - Features - A History of Gaming Platforms: Mattel Intellivision
Our Properties: Gamasutra GameCareerGuide IndieGames GameSetWatch GDC IGF Game Developer Magazine GAO
My Message close
A History of Gaming Platforms: Mattel Intellivision
Printer-Friendly VersionPrinter-Friendly Version
Latest News
spacer View All spacer
November 8, 2011
World of Warcraft Loses Another 800K Subs In Three Months
Activision Nearly Triples Profits In Surprising Q3 [3]
Help Further Diversity, Quality Of Life With IGDA Survey
Latest Jobs
spacer View All     Post a Job     RSS spacer
November 8, 2011
Blizzard Entertainment
Senior Software Engineer, Console -- Graphics Specialist
Game Closure
Social Games Artist
Digital Extremes
Character Artist
Robotic Arm Software
Software Engineer
Digital Extremes
Concept Artist
Sr. Systems Administrator
Latest Features
spacer View All spacer
November 8, 2011
arrow Researching The Next Wave Of Innovation [1]
arrow Hard Edge Creativity: Defining Borderlands 2 [2]
arrow The Story Behind The Making Of Prince Of Persia [8]
arrow Darwinian Difficulty: How Throwing Players In Headfirst Can Work [25]
arrow Gamification: Framing The Discussion [24]
arrow Building a Better Kickstarter Campaign [8]
arrow A New Journey: Building War In The North [1]
arrow Social Killer: How DeNA Leads Japan's Market [2]
Latest Blogs
spacer View All     Post     RSS spacer
November 8, 2011
Snowblinded [4]
Exposing Social Gaming's Hidden Lever
Becoming A Better Game Programmer
Gaming Toolbars: More Than Malware [5]
What Makes Strategy Games Exciting? [11]
spacer Editor-In-Chief/News Director:
Kris Graft
Features Director:
Christian Nutt
Senior Contributing Editor:
Brandon Sheffield
News Editors:
Kris Graft, Kyle Orland, Frank Cifaldi, Mike Rose
Leigh Alexander, Chris Morris
Jennifer Sulik
Gina Gross
Feature Submissions
Comment Guidelines
  A History of Gaming Platforms: Mattel Intellivision
by Matt Barton, Bill Loguidice [Console]
Post A Comment Share on Twitter Share on Facebook RSS
May 8, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 9 Next

[Gamasutra's A History of Gaming Platforms series continues with a look at the Intellivision, a classic video game console developed by toy company Mattel and continued as an independent business for years after being dropped by that company. Need to catch up? Check out the first four articles in the series, covering the Commodore 64, Vectrex, Apple II, and Atari 2600.]

When Mattel released its Intellivision video game system in 1980, Atari knew it finally had a serious contender for the console crown. The Intellivision was more advanced than Atari's VCS (later known as the 2600) and featured distinctive software, clever marketing campaigns and sophisticated (though quirky) controllers. Mattel cultivated a unique and long-lasting brand identity, and it's not hard to find loyal fans of the system even today.

Release Year 1980
Resolution 160 x 196
On-Screen Colors 16
Sound 3 Channels, Mono
Media Format(s) Cartridge
Main Memory 2KB


The Mattel company was founded in 1945. It was then primarily a manufacturer of picture frames and dollhouse accessories. After the introduction of the Barbie doll line in 1959, the company shifted its focus entirely to toys.

Barbie's unbelievable success swelled Mattel's coffers, and it soon diversified its lineup by purchasing smaller toy companies with unrelated product lines. Today, with well-known brands such as Hot Wheels, Barbie, and an ongoing series of acquisitions that include Fisher-Price and Tyco, Mattel is one of the world's largest and most successful toy makers.

In 1977, Mattel, under its Mattel Electronics line, produced the seminal Auto Race, the first all-electronic handheld game. It was crude by today's standards -- the visuals were represented by red LED lights and the sound consisted of simple beeps.

But the novel product was a huge success, spawning several other handheld games such as Football and Battlestar Galactica. These games sold millions and gave Mattel the confidence to move into the fledgling video game console market with the Intellivision Master Component.

The inside of a 1981 Mattel Electronics Intellivision catalog, showing the original Master Component and various boxed games in their respective Network colors.

Mattel successfully test marketed the Intellivision in Fresno, California, in 1979, along with four games: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, Math Fun, Armor Battle, and Backgammon. The following year, Mattel went national, and quickly sold out the first year's production run of the popular systems.

Closeups of the infamous Intellivision controller. Despite allowing for an impressive 16 possible movement directions, the control disc was often criticized for its awkwardness with many games. Many add-ons of dubious value were created to purportedly enhance the control disc's functionality, like the Intellivision Attachable Joysticks shown to the far right.

Article Start Page 1 of 9 Next


UBM Techweb
Game Network
Game Developers Conference | GDC Europe | GDC Online | GDC China | Gamasutra | Game Developer Magazine | Game Advertising Online
Game Career Guide | Independent Games Festival | GameSetWatch | IndieGames

Other UBM TechWeb Networks
Business Technology | Business Technology Events | Telecommunications & Communications Providers

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Contact Us | Copyright © UBM TechWeb, All Rights Reserved.