Intellivision Entertainment has hired veteran Xbox J Allard as global general manager.
Allard will report to Intellivision CEO Tommy Tallarico, and he will support a wide variety of operations that are essential to the launch of the company’s retro game console, the Intellivision Amico, which will debut on October 10 this year (10-10 -20).
The original Intellivision was a Mattel machine that gave Atari a run for its money in the early 1980s. Tallarico, the creator of Video Games Live, announced in 2018 that he had acquired the rights to the console and its original games, and he planned to relaunch Intellivision as a retro brand.
“We are delighted to add such an incredible industry legend to our team,” said Tallarico, in an email to GamesBeat. “J’s shared experience, vision and leadership in the technology and video game industries as a visionary, product designer and player will further strengthen Intellivision’s management team and innovation legacy . “
Tallarico purchased a stake in Intellivision Productions from the estate of former owner and founder Keith Robinson, who died in 2017. Tallarico revived the Irvine, California-based company under the name of Intellivision Entertainment, and he serves as president of alongside some of the original Intellivision team members.
Originally launched in 1980, the Intellivision console and its successors have sold millions of units in three decades. Among the users was J Allard, who played on a machine with his brother.
“This week, I’m back on the field and not just to the applause of the stands – it’s a great feeling,” said Allard in an email to GamesBeat. “There is a need, an opportunity, and a formidable and disjointed team committed to meeting it. I didn’t want to team up with Tommy, I had at.”
Microsoft’s history of Allard
James Allard (his name is J Allard) was recruited by Microsoft in 1991 and then delivered more than 40 products, obtained more than 50 patents and helped create four multi-billion dollar businesses. Allard has spent more than two decades at Microsoft.
He had an impact at the beginning of his career in the company by writing a note entitled “Windows: the next killer application on the Internet”, explaining why Microsoft had to change course and redefine itself with the Internet. The memo led Bill Gates, then CEO, to review the company’s strategy, and Allard became known as “Microsoft’s Internet father.”
After winning the web wars, he became a leader in the Xbox division as it was about to launch for the first time in 2001. The Xbox has become the fastest-growing $ 1 billion business in the history of Microsoft, but it also lost a lot of money at first. Allard led the development of Xbox Live, which has now become one of Microsoft’s key pillars in its video game business, and he also led the development of Xbox Live Arcade and the Xbox 360 game console that made its debut in 2005.
During this time, I got to know Allard and saw how the ambitious dreams of a small group of renegades became a huge undertaking at Microsoft. Microsoft has established its credibility and activity in games after a huge investment and many painful lessons. But it eventually started making money and turned into Microsoft’s most successful diversification beyond its core businesses, Windows and Office.
We must not forget the risks of this era (I talked about it in my two books on the Xbox business). Microsoft initially lost about $ 4 billion and has caused many to wonder if Bill Gates was out of his mind to make this happen. But now Microsoft can make billions of dollars from Xbox activities in a given quarter. And Microsoft can thank Allard for most of the key decisions, such as the creation of Xbox Live, that made the difference.
Allard was then director of experience for Microsoft and director of technology for the entertainment and devices division, the predecessor of the Xbox group.
But Allard and his boss Robbie Bach did not win all of the battles. Bach was responsible for managing Xbox and PC gaming activities, and he oversaw Allard as the group tried to compete with Apple with the Zune music player, Windows Mobile and now Windows Phone. They tried to outdo the iPod first and then the iPhone, and they lost that battle. Both left Microsoft in 2010.
“It’s so great to see J again in the video game industry. He’s always been a visionary, and that’s great news for anyone who loves the game, “said David Hufford, general manager of communications at Microsoft and former original Xbox PR chief, in an email.
For Allard, this started a time of reflection. He spent a lot of time outside, left the Seattle area, and went to live in Bellingham, Washington. And then he started working with startups. In the past decade, Allard said that he had engaged in too many projects to be counted, but the largest had been 529 Garage.
“This is a service that addresses the billion dollar bicycle theft epidemic in North America and has grown to be the largest bicycle registry in the world in just six years,” said said Allard.
The service is spreading across the United States and Canada and has seen double-digit impact in the cities that have really looked into it.
“When was the last time you heard of a government program that had a 40% impact on a problem in four years?” Said Allard. “We did that with the Vancouver police. 529 is just three of us and a lot of noise but has been rewarding and a great learning experience. Working with the public sector has been eye-opening, and of course trying to cut a billion dollar problem in half with a small budget really deepened my resourcefulness. “
But Allard also remembers his roots. As a gamer, he grew up with the original Intellivision and released his first Lemonade Stand game in the early 1980s for the TRS-80 color computer.
“I bet you could name 80%, maybe 90% of all game console projects ever built on top of your head in three minutes,” he said. “It’s not a long list, which means that few people have gone through it – especially from scratch.”
He added, “There are so many moving parts that have to all converge at the same time. On the one hand, everything must be coordinated from a calendar and budget point of view, while the other must ensure that everything a customer sees is in line with the brand and exceeds expectations. And if that isn’t difficult enough, you also need to commit, raise funds and talk to the client and the media in parallel. Of course, when you succeed, the success or failure of the business depends on how you deliver the fun factor. And the fun factor is art, not science. “
The challenge at Intellivision
Allard said he still has respect for Tallarico, although he has never spent much time with him in the past.
“I continued to play and follow the industry after leaving Microsoft. For the past year or so, I have been watching Amico’s work with a combination of curiosity and anticipation, ”said Allard. “When the founding edition fell, I took the plunge (just like my brother, Ed, who is a game designer). It got us talking about the days when we were growing up and what Intellivision meant for us (and for the family) and we started to brainstorm the idea that we would team up after shipping its new Switch title this summer. “
Allard said that he had spent more time catching up on the content that the Amico team had shared on their progress, sketching out some game ideas and decided to reach out to Tallarico – just to tell him that he was fan.
“No agenda, I just decided that rather than hiding in the shadows, I would give her a call,” said Allard. “I told him how I thought the vision was perfect, that I was a big believer and that I appreciate how difficult it is to do what they set out to do and ignore the doubt and sneak in there. Shared that [Microsoft Game Studios veteran Ed Fries] and I was kicking around ideas and thinking about making it a title, and he could call me anytime if my experience with Xbox could help. “
Tallarico laughed at the offer and asked Allard when he started.
“I had no intention of taking up a new job, but no hesitation when asked. A few days later, I was on a hands-free Zoom call with the Amico family and infected with their passion as well, “said Allard. “So yes, I called Tommy to tell him that Amico is something the world needs … he told me that I was someone Amico needed … and here we are. “
When asked why he came out of retirement, Allard replied, “I think only the media has ever said ‘retirement’. No one around me did! I had a great run for two decades at Microsoft, and of course, Xbox was the highlight of my professional career, but it was time to do some independent projects and get away from a big business environment. “
In his new role at Intellivision Entertainment, Allard will provide information to support the final development of Amico – the new console designed to make video games accessible to everyone. His expertise and in-depth knowledge of user experience, operating systems, game certification and ecosystem creation will help Amico stay true to its mission.
“Amico’s vision speaks to me, not only because I grew up with Intellivision, but because I grew up playing with my family and friends,” J Allard said in a statement. “Playing together is a timeless concept that the video game industry has largely forgotten. The team at Intellivision is deeply committed to bringing back a fun and affordable shared game for everyone. “
As global managing director, his main responsibilities include guiding the user experience, user interface, operating system, game certification, developer support, anti-piracy and final manufacturing of the equipment.
Allard said the Amico family has incredible depth and decades-long talent in the world of integrated gaming. And the deep experience on the game side of the equation gives the organization incredible intuition and understanding to complete this fun first mission with the family, said Allard.
“You know, I have always been a big supporter of multiplayer, affordable and family entertainment as a leader, but as a player – I also miss it a lot,” said Allard. “We are playing Overcooked on Xbox on Thanksgiving. It’s a really fun and weaponless collaborative multiplayer game. But mom doesn’t play. She looks, laughs and claps. She is intimidated by the controllers, the menus and the rhythm. Non-gamers eager to try also struggle with all of these issues. “
During the last Mother’s Day, Allard showed him and his nephews a first version of the Amico ski.
“She volunteered to take the third run. On her first attempt, she only crashed three times 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 is my mom. But it’s been 35 years since she really played and played a game with other people like that without any help or stress. Watching her play games with my eight-year-old nephew for the first time was a great feeling. Thank you, Amico. “
He said family couch play – “what started the whole console industry in the 70s and 80s – has been so neglected by the game industry.”
In closing, Allard said, “Between Xbox and Sony, the crowd of 4K players has a lot to wait for. The billions invested in virtual reality and augmented reality – we’ll see how it goes, but it will probably take a lot more effort than it justifies. Streaming is a super hard engineering problem (30 minutes on a Zoom call pretty much sums up how difficult multiplayer is), and big companies are looking hard. Nintendo and smartphones offer many options for lonely, portable fun – but not always affordable or safe. No one is focusing on bringing the family together on the couch for shared fun on the big screen. “