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INTV CORP. RELEASES

When Mattel Electronics started posting massive losses in the first half of 1983, the parent company, Mattel Inc., responded by replacing the management team. Terrence E. Valeski was part of the new team, brought in as the Senior Vice President of Marketing.

The momentum of losses was such, though, that Mattel closed the electronics division before the new team really had a chance to make an impact. (The product line had already been locked in for Christmas 1983; Mattel Electronics closed January 1984.)

But Valeski had seen enough of the market to believe that the Intellivision was still a viable product. After all, even though 1983 was a disastrous year for the industry, with Mattel alone losing $394.1 million, sales of video games was up 10% over 1982. It was the glut of product that caused the losses.

Believing that a small, low-overhead company that could continue to supply the 3 million plus Intellivision owners with new product would be successful, Valeski found investors to purchase the Intellivision name, game rights and inventory from Mattel for $20 million. Of key importance, he also got the mailing list of registered Intellivision owners.

The new company, Intellivision Inc., was mainly concerned with liquidating the existing inventory of Mattel game cartridges, keeping the larger toy stores supplied and selling through mail order. They also bought up remaining Intellivision-cartridge inventory from Imagic, Activision, Parker Bros., Atari and Interphase.

But in 1985, Valeski tested his theory that there was still a market for new games, releasing World Championship Baseball, Thunder Castle, World Cup Soccer, and Championship Tennis. The first two of these had been completed but not released by Mattel Electronics. The last two had been completed at Nice Dreams, the former Mattel Electronics office in France. These were already in release in Europe from Dextell Ltd.

The response to the new games was enthusiastic enough that Valeski bought out the other investors, changed the name of the company to INTV Corp., and started scheduling new Intellivision releases.

Following the early successful marketing strategy of Intellivision, Valeski focused on sports, planning to release at least one enhanced version of an original Sports Network title per year. Additionally, he had several of the games left unfinished by Mattel Electronics (and, in the case of Dig Dug, by Atari) completed. By building on existing code, Valeski saved development money; of the 21 games receiving their first US release by INTV, only 6 (Chip Shot, Commando, Pole Position, Super Pro Decathlon, Body Slam and Spiker!) were coded from scratch.

Costs were also saved in packaging. Hand controller overlays were eliminated for the new games. Cartridges still came in color boxes, but cartridge labels and instructions were black-and- white, with the instructions edited down to a minimum and printed on folded sheets instead of in booklets. (For a brief period, Valeski eliminated the color boxes for cartridges ordered by mail, packing them in clear plastic bags, instead. Consumer complaints forced going back to the boxes.)

The lower production costs allowed INTV to provide more aggressive pricing than Mattel Electronics had. New titles were introduced at $19.95 through the mail order catalogs, then quickly dropped in price in subsequent mailings. Old Mattel and third-party titles usually sold for $12.95 or $9.95, with a few hitting the bargain price of $6.95. Most catalogs also had special offers for discounted or free cartridges with a minimum purchase.

As popular original Intellivision games sold out from inventory, new copies were made. The packaging for these reprints was brought into line with the austerity of the new games: overlays were eliminated if possible (or printed in fewer colors, if not), instructions were printed in black-and-white on folded sheets, cartridge labels became black-and-white. The boxes themselves were printed on a lower-grade, thinner cardboard. (Because items ran out at different rates, a package might contain a cartridge with a color label and black-and-white instructions, or vice versa.)

Contractually, on the reprinted boxes and instructions, the Mattel Electronics name was deleted. Similarly, on the only third-party game that INTV manufactured new cartridges of, Pac-Man, the Atarisoft name was eliminated from the reprint of the box and instructions (the box was also redesigned to make the Pac-Man character itself larger). Major League Baseball became Big League Baseball to avoid re-licensing the Major League trademark.

In addition to the games, INTV Corp. also started manufacturing new master components as the remaining inventory of Mattel Electronics Intellivision IIs ran out. In Spring 1986 they introduced the INTV System III master component. Essentially it was identical to the original Intellivision, molded in black instead of brown plastic, and with the addition of an on/off light. (The reason for going back to the old design is that it used off-the-shelf chips from General Instruments, while the Intellivision II required a number of custom integrated circuits which were impractical to have manufactured in the lower production runs INTV would be doing.) The INTV System III was also sold as the INTV Super Pro System and simply as the INTV Master System. (The INTV System III should not be confused with the Mattel Electronics Intellivision III, which was never released.)

Through the catalogs, INTV also sold off the remaining Mattel inventory of Intellivoice modules, ECS Computer Adaptors, and System Changers, plus new items like clip-on hand controller joysticks and INTV t-shirts. They also sold non-Intellivision close-out merchandise, ranging from typewriters to work-out tapes. In a separate catalog sent to the Intellivision mailing list, INTV even introduced their own IBM compatible: the INTV PC/XT. An INTV project with World Book to release a custom-color Intellivision master component (dubbed the Tutorvision) with special educational cartridges ended with both companies suing each other.

By keeping costs down and carefully targeting his market, Valeski was able to keep producing new Intellivision product throughout the 1980s. But with the resurgence of video games led by Nintendo, long-time Intellivision owners finally started to abandon their old system for the newer ones. Valeski tried to get into production for these newer systems (one Nintendo cartridge, Monster Truck Rally was produced), but it was too late. INTV Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990, and closed in 1991.

EASTER EGG: Most of the original packaging for INTV games was designed by former Mattel Electronics manager Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer). As a favor to Dave Warhol, who produced the games, Keith slipped the number 47 onto the boxes wherever possible. (47 is the lucky number of Dave's alma mater, Pomona College. Another Pomona alum is on staff at the Star Trek production offices, accounting for the number 47 showing up in nearly every Star Trek: The Next Generation television program and movie.)


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