Saturday, July 3, 2010

Activision for Intellivision -- No, Really!

Nowadays, third-party companies generally support the top two or three gaming platforms in every generation, and there are rarely more than that many around.  Even in today's technologically fragmented console market, most games come out for the Playstation 3 and the XBox 360, and often on the PC, with a modified or even completely different design for the Nintendo Wii.

But back in the 80's, it was big news -- literally unbelievable news, apparently -- when Activision announced it would convert a couple of its most popular Atari 2600 games to run on the Mattel Intellivision console.  To convince retailers and gamers that this was in fact real, and perhaps to minimize marketplace confusion over this bold new move, Activision introduced an alternate packaging style, replacing the rainbow-hued line drawings of the 2600 line with more realistic painted covers, and adopting a modified company logo.

They also ran magazine ads like this:

I really like this ad -- the artwork calls the golden years of the National Lampoon to mind, and it gets its message to gamers across with self-deprecating humor. 

But it also suggests that Activision executives were genuinely nervous about branching out into the broader market, even though Imagic had already established a third-party beachhead on the Mattel platform.

Pitfall! and Stampede! were no-brainers with minimal risk, as both were huge hits on the Atari system.  I gather that they sold well enough on the Intellivision to spawn development of later titles, often beyond the 2600's capabilities, like Worm Whomper and The Dreadnought Factor.

If those sales hadn't materialized, I like to imagine that Activision would have run more profane and violent versions of this ad -- with the kid brandishing a switchblade, perhaps.

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