Intellivision Entertainment has hired Xbox veteran J Allard as global director. Allard will report to Intellivision CEO, Tommy Tallarico, and will perform a variety of operations that are critical to the launch of the company’s retro gaming console, Intellivision Amico, which will be released on October 10 this year (10-10- 20) comes onto the market.
The original Intellivision was a game console from Mattel that gave Atari a run for his money in the early 1980s. Tallarico, creator of the Video Games Live concert series, announced in 2018 that he had acquired rights to the console and their original games, and planned to restart Intellivision as a retro brand.
“We are very excited to add such an amazing industry legend to our team,”
Tallarico acquired a stake in Intellivision Productions from the estate of the former owner and founder Keith Robinson, who died in 2017. Tallarico has restarted the company as Intellivision Entertainment and is serving as president alongside some of the original team members.
The Intellivision console and its successors sold millions of units in three decades. Among the users was J Allard, who was playing on a machine with his brother.
“I’m back in the field this week, not just cheering from the stands – it’s a great feeling,” Allard said in an email to GamesBeat. “There is a need, an opportunity and a great, scratchy team that is committed to accepting it.” I didn’t want to team up with Tommy, me would have to.”
Allard’s Microsoft story
James Allard (led by J Allard) was recruited by Microsoft in 1991 and shipped over 40 products, received over 50 patents and helped build four billion dollar companies. Allard spent more than two decades with Microsoft.
He made an impression early in his career in the company when he wrote a memo titled “Windows: The Next Killer App on the Internet” outlining why Microsoft had to change course and redefine itself with the Internet. The memo prompted CEO Bill Gates at the time to revise the company’s strategy, and Allard became known as “Microsoft’s father of the Internet”.
After winning these web wars, he became head of the Xbox division when Microsoft was preparing to launch this console in 2001. The Xbox became the fastest $ 1 billion company in Microsoft history, but initially lost a lot of money. Allard led the development of Xbox Live, which has become one of Microsoft’s most important pillars in the video game business, and also led the development of Xbox Live Arcade and the Xbox 360 game console that were introduced in 2005.
During that time, I got to know Allard and saw how the ambitious dreams of a small squad of renegades at Microsoft turned into a huge business. Microsoft has established its credibility and gaming business after a huge investment and many painful lessons. But it finally started to make money and became Microsoft’s most successful diversification beyond the core businesses of Windows and Office.
The risks of this time should not be forgotten (I wrote about it in my two books on Xbox business). Microsoft initially lost around $ 4 billion and had many people wonder if Gates had gone mad to make this possible. But now Microsoft can make billions of dollars on Xbox business in a given quarter. And Microsoft can thank Allard for many of the key decisions like making Xbox Live that made the difference.
Allard was later Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, Entertainment and Devices, the predecessor of the Xbox group.
But Allard and his boss, Robbie Bach, have not won every battle. Bach was responsible for managing the Xbox and PC game business and oversaw Allard when the group tried to take over Apple directly with the Zune music player, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. They tried to outperform the iPod first and later the iPhone and lost this fight. Both left Microsoft 2010.
“It’s great to see J back in the gaming industry. He’s always been a visionary and this is fantastic news for anyone who likes to play,” said David Hufford, general manager for communications at Microsoft and former original head of Xbox PR, in an email.
A time of reflection began for Allard. He spent a lot of time outdoors, leaving the Seattle area and moving to Bellingham, Washington. And then he started working with startups. Over the past decade, Allard said he had been involved in too many projects to count, but the largest was 529 Garage.
“It is a service that is targeting the $ 1 billion bicycle theft epidemic in North America and has become the world’s largest bicycle registry in just six years,” said Allard.
The service spans the United States and Canada, and has double-digit effects in cities that really engage.
“When was the last time you heard about a government program that had 40% of a problem in four years?” Allard said. “We did that with the Vancouver police. 529 is only three of us and a lot of hustle and bustle, however [it] was rewarding and a great learning experience. Working with the public sector has opened my eyes, and of course trying to cut a billion dollar problem in half on a tiny budget really deepened my ingenuity. “
But Allard also remembered his roots. He grew up with the original Intellivision and published his first game lemonade stand for the TRS-80 color computer in the early 80s.
“I bet you could name 80%, maybe 90% of all game console projects ever built in 3 minutes from your head,” he said. “It’s not a long list, which means that not many people have gone through it – especially not from scratch.”
“There are so many moving parts that all have to converge at the same time. On the one hand, everything has to be coordinated from the perspective of the schedule and the budget, on the other hand, it has to be ensured that everything a customer sees is on the brand and exceeds expectations. And if that’s not difficult enough, you also have to hire, collect donations and talk to customers and the media in parallel. If you can do that, it is of course crucial how well you do the fun factor. And the fun factor is art, not science. “
The challenge at Intellivision
Allard said he had always had respect for Tallarico, although he had never spent much time with him in the past.
“After I left Microsoft, I kept playing and chasing the industry. For about a year now I have been observing the Amico’s work with a combination of curiosity and anticipation, ”said Allard. “When the Founder Edition was released, I jumped in right away (and my brother Ed, who is a game designer). This got us talking about the days of growing up and how much Intellivision meant for both of us (and the family) and started with the idea that we would team up after he delivered his new Switch title this summer would have. “
Allard said he spent more time delving into the content the Amico team shared about their progress, outlining some game ideas, and decided to reach Tallarico just to tell him that he was be a fan.
“[I had] no agenda. I just decided to call him instead of lurking in the shadows, ”said Allard. “I told him how I felt that the vision was just right, that I was a great believer, and that I appreciate how hard it is to do what they set out to do and ignore the doubt and snore out there. Shared that [Microsoft Game Studios veteran Ed Fries] and I was thinking about ideas and we were thinking about making a title for it and he could call me anytime if my experience with Xbox could help. “
Tallarico laughed at this offer and asked Allard when he started.
“I had no intention of taking on a new job, but without hesitation when asked. A few days later I had a zoom call with the Amico family and was also infected by their passion, ”said Allard. “So yes, I called Tommy to tell him that Amico is something the world needs … he told me that I am someone who needs Amico … and here we are.”
When asked why he retired, Allard said, “I think only the media ever said ‘retirement’. Nobody has around me! I had a great run at Microsoft for two decades, and of course Xbox was the highlight of my career, but it was time to do some independent projects and move away from a big business environment. “
In his new role at Intellivision Entertainment, Allard will provide insights to support the final development of Amico. His expertise and deep knowledge of user experience, operating systems, game certification, and ecosystem building will help Amico stay true to its mission.
As a global director, his primary responsibilities include controlling the user experience, user interface, operating system, game certification, developer support, anti-piracy, and final hardware manufacturing.
Allard said that the Amico family has incredible depth and decades of talent from the built-in game world. And the deep experience on the game side of the equation gives the organization incredible intuition and insight to accomplish this first family fun mission, Allard said.
“You know I’ve always been a big supporter of multiplayer, affordable, family-friendly entertainment as a leader, but as a player – I really miss it,” said Allard. “We’re playing Overcooked on Xbox on Thanksgiving. It is a really fun, weapon-free, collaborative multiplayer game. But mom doesn’t play. She watches and laughs and cheers. She is intimidated by the controllers, the menus and the pace. The non-players willing to give it a try also struggle with all of these problems. “
On the last mother’s day, Allard showed her and his nephews an early start of Amico skiing.
“She volunteered for the third run. She crashed only three times on her first try and her biggest complaint was that “she could have gone faster if she had figured out how to jump at the start of the race,” said Allard. “She tried Fusion Frenzy in 2001 because she was my mother. But it has been 35 years since she actually started playing with other people like this with no help or stress. It was a great feeling to be the first To see me play with my eight year old nephew. Thank you, Amico. “
He said that Family Couch Gaming – “what the entire console industry started in the 1970s and 1980s – was so overlooked by the gaming industry.”
Allard concluded: “Between Xbox and Sony, 4K gaming audiences can look forward to a lot. The billions invested in VR and AR – we’ll see how this works, but is likely to cost a lot more than justified. The streaming problem is a very tough technical problem (30 minutes on a zoom call pretty much summarizes how difficult multiplayer flash games are), and the big companies are hard working. Nintendo and smartphones offer many options for lonely, portable fun – but not always affordable or safe. Nobody focuses on bringing the family back together on the couch to have fun together on the big screen. “