Mattel Electronics

In 1977, Richard Chang, head of the Mattel Toys Design and Development department, began investigating the idea of producing a videogame system. He hired Glenn Hightower's APh Technology Consultants to help define the project. They found close to what they were looking for in the General Instruments integrated circuit catalog. The catalog described a video game system called the Gimini 6900 which could be built from off-the-shelf GI chips.

GI was enthusiastic about working with Mattel and helped make design changes. (The most important of these was adding a way for programmers to define new graphics for each game; the original design only allowed for a ROM library of graphics that would be used for every game. Design & Development artist Dave James insisted this would be a debilitating limitation.)

The Mattel executives, however, were reluctant to compete with Atari in the videogame market; they put the videogame project on hold. Instead, Richard Chang's group started producing handheld electronic games, many programmed by APh.

These games, marketed under the name Mattel Electronics, were very successful. In the Mattel boardroom, executive Jeff Rochlis started pushing the idea again of a videogame system. He finally sold upper management on it; in 1979, the Intellivision project started moving forward again.

The actual engineering of the hardware (including design of the infamous hand controllers) was done by a team at Mattel headed by Dave Chandler, earning him the nickname "Papa Intellivision." The internal software (the "Executive") was programmed at APh.

(Midway through development, Texas Instruments approached Mattel and pushed hard to get TI chips used in the Intellivision instead of GI chips. Although they offered a great deal price-wise that was seriously considered, Mattel stuck with GI since it would have caused a six to nine month delay. A good thing, says Glenn Hightower, who fought against the TI chip set as being "inferior.")

The Intellivision was test marketed in 1979 in Fresno, California, along with four cartridges: Poker & BlackjackMath FunArmor Battle, and Backgammon. The test was a success, and in 1980 the Intellivision went into wide release. 175,000 were sold in 1980, 500,000 in 1981 and another 500,000 in 1982. Counting the Intellivision II and the Sears, Radio Shack and INTV clones, approximately 3 million master components were ultimately sold.

The Intellivision originally retailed for $299. Within a year the price had dropped to $249, and in 1982 a $50 rebate brought the actual price under $200. The cheaper-to-produce Intellivision II (which did not come with a game cartridge as the original Intellivision had), was introduced at around $150, but by late 1983 retailed for $69.95. That became the final Intellivision price point. Master Components sold by Mattel Electronics' successor, INTV Corp., from 1985 through 1990 were sold for $69.95 each.

Most Mattel Electronics cartridges were introduced at $39.95, then dropped in price as new titles were released. Intellivoice games originally sold for $43.95 each. Chess, which included RAM in the cartridge, was the most expensive Intellivision cartridge ever at $55.95.

FUN FACT: Magnavox actually patented the concept of the home videogame when they created the Odyssey Game System. When Atari released the 2600, they obtained a license from Magnavox, reportedly at a very low price. By the time the Intellivision was released, Magnavox realized their mistake. They demanded a hefty fee from Mattel for each Master Component sold.

Mattel decided not to pay; after careful analysis, the legal department concluded that the patent would never stand up in court. Wellllll.....it did. Magnavox sued, won, and Mattel coughed up a few million dollars.

Packaging History for Intellivision Games

As most everyone knows, there were eight games released with the standard text on the front mentioning the Keyboard Component, but with the "For Color TV Viewing Only" text up in the main artwork. These were eight of the first fifteen boxes released, but were not the first eight, though the last two, which were released a month after the others, were both test marketed. NASL Soccer and Space Battle appear to have avoided that text despite being released in the first two weeks of official releases. These are all made in the US, in a gatefold box with a tray, and the part number on top. I call these GFFCTVVO.

 

Then the For Color TV Viewing Only was moved to its permanent location in the lower right of the front of the box. Through the end of 1980, the Keyboard Component text remained. Still Gatefold with a  tray and part number on the top, all nineteen games released in 1980 were printed in both US and Hong Kong. I call these GFUSKC and GFHKKC

In 1981, the Keyboard Component text was removed and the part number taken off the top. Nine games were printed in the US while retaining the tray, which I call GFUS. Six of those were reprints, while Bowling, Space Armada and Triple Action got a tray in their first US boxes. The Hong Kong boxes continued with the tray with at least 37 games printed this way.  Boxing and Star Strike are the only 1981 games with no Hong Kong box reported, and it would be surprising at all if they existed. Space Battle, Soccer and Hockey are the older games with no HK box reported.

The US printing quickly switched to the no-tray gatefold (GFUSNT), and 33 games are reported in this format, including ALL the 1981 and 1982 releases. Twelve of the 1980 releases are not listed as having this version and two of those are not even reported as existing without the Keyboard Component text.

In 1983, at least six games were printed in Gatefold boxes in Singapore, including three ECS games. Las Vegas Poker Blackjack had a Gatefold Taiwan printing. All the 1983 releases except for TRON Solar Sailer were printed in flip top boxes, like the Intellivision Inc and INTV Corp boxes to follow.

But these are just the main variant types. There are other variants involving stickers on the bottom, changing part numbers or content on the back cover, etc. For more information on box variants, see INTVFunhouse.