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The Coleco Chameleon Is Nothing But A Scam

Once the marvel of the retro gaming community, the Coleco Chameleon has become nothing but empty promises and lies wrapped together in a ball of black electrical tape

Coleco Chameleon

Ever since it was first unveiled as the RETRO VGS, I’ve tried to keep a positive outlook regarding the Coleco Chameleon. After all, as someone who spends as much time digging through my mountain of classic games as I do the current-gen stuff – no small undertaking, given how much time I spend writing about the latest releases for this site – the appeal of what the Chameleon promised was undeniable.

Touted as the first cartridge-based home console to hit the market in over two decades, the console looked to be a return to the golden age of video games. From the console’s sleek mock-ups based on the Atari jaguar, to the wild promises of massive support from the indie gaming scene, it seemed like this shiny black box would be a grand return to the glory days of chunky sprites and pointy pixels, poised to steal the hearts of retro gaming aficionados everywhere who longed for gaming’s simpler times. Add to this the promise of a FPGA that allowed the support for a variety a classic consoles and you had a recipe for what seemed to be something truly spectacular.

Coleco Chameleon

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way. A week before the RETRO VGS’ Kickstarter campaign was poised to launch, the crowdfunding platform was switched to IndieGoGo due to the team’s failure to deliver a working prototype for the console in compliance with Kickstarter’s rules. Adding insult to injury, the price of the unit was hiked up from its initial $150 suggested price to $350 dollars. To make matters worse, the promised FPGA feature was shifted to a stretch goal. Suffice to say, the fans were not pleased, and the IndieGoGo campaign for the RETRO VGS was pulled faster than you can say “Infinium Phantom“.

Coleco Chameleon

Late last year, RETRO Video Game Systems announced a partnership with Coleco to release their beleaguered console under the name the Coleco Chameleon, banking on the new moniker tugging at the heartstrings of gamers who cut their teeth on video games in the early 1980’s. Seemingly reinvigorated, Mike Kennedy, founder of RETRO Magazine and owner of co-founder of the RETRO VGS, promised the console would be shown of in earnest at Toy Fair New York, which took place last month. While this would have been the perfect time for RVGS to save face and show the naysayers they were serious about delivering on their promises, the end result was an absolute failure of epic proportions. As it turns out the eagle-eyed gamers at the Atari Age Forums noticed the hardware cramed into the translucent plastic shell of the Chameleon was nothing more than the motherboard for a Super Nintendo model SNS-101, which seemd to explain the apparent SNES AV and power connections visible in the rear of the unit, along with the fact the three games showcased on the system were all SNES titles, all played on Super Nintendo controllers hardwired into the unit. Simply put, the prototype cartridge seemed to be nothing more than a flash cartidge loaded with SNES roms stuffed into a Jaguar cartridge shell wrapped in a liberal amount of electrical tape. 

As if this fiasco wasn’t enough to damn the “system”, the official Facebook page for the Chameleon featured posts claiming to showcase the working prototype unit, which was outed as nothing more than a Jaguar shell stuffed with a PCI capture card. Now in damage control mode, the RVGS team promptly deleted the offending pictures, along with any comments referencing their shady dealings. 

At this point, it’s hard to imagine a future for the Coleco Chameleon. While the system seemed to be fueled by the best intentions, the outright lies and shenanigans perpetuated by the team underscore that the hardware is nothing but vaporware. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the fact that Kennedy & company thought for one minute that the devoted fan base they were pandering to wouldn’t be knowledgable enough to pick up on their scheme is nothing short of insulting. Considering the only ones who were likely to purchase the Chameleon to begin with are members of the communities who picked up on the console’s deceptive marketing, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would would spend one penny on a system that at this point is nothing but a hodgepodge of decades old parts tossed together with empty promises and gobs of black electrical tape. If the console wasn’t ready for prime time, then they should have just been honest, but the fact that the RVGS team has gone to such lengths as to completely fabricate some Frankenstein monster out of classic console debris is nothing short of appalling, and should tell you everything you need to know about the team behind the Chameleon.

I used to be a believer, but not anymore. The Coleco Chameleon is nothing but a shitty scam intended to fleece unwitting, nostalgic gamers out of their hard earned cash. After lying to the face of every supporter who has supported the console since it was first revealed, it’s hard to imagine many indie developers would even consider bringing their games to the platform if and when it ever becomes anything more than a glorified SNES taped haphazardly into a Jaguar shell, and to take a word from Atari’s failed 64-bit console, it’s not hard to “do the math” when pondering if the Chameleon’s days are numbered. 

At this point the only real option the team at RETRO has is to simply take a bow and exit stage right. They’ve done nothing but shoot themselves in the foot since first unveiling their nixed Kickstarter campaign late last year, and the rampant lies and falsified shots have done nothing but underscore the hucksters they are. Here’s hoping the Coleco Chameleon follows in the footsteps the Phantom and disappears into the ether before any unsuspecting gamers gets suckered into buying into this hunk of vaporware. 

So, what are your thoughts on the Coleco Chameleon controversy? Did you plan on picking this up before the Toy Fair fiasco? Do you still have any faith that the RVGS team plans to make things right with their supporters? Be sure to sound off in the comments section and let us know.

Frank has been the caffeine-fueled evil overlord of HeyPoorPlayer since 2008. He speaks loudly and carries a big stick to keep the staff of the HPP madhouse in check. A collector of all things that blip and beep, he has an extensive collection of retro consoles and arcade machines crammed into his house. Before founding the site, Frank was a staff writer for the blogs Gaming Judgement and NuclearGeek.
  • K.

    What a ridiculous mess. Snake Oil in gaming form is all this fiasco is.

  • This is a classic case of an idea being strong-armed by idiots with no technical expertise. I get the impression that people like Mike Kennedy have zero knowledge of how to build an FPGA core. That takes a lot of time and effort. It’s very complicated and requires a serious amount of computer science and electronics know-how. Figure that shit out for the consoles you want to support, and then launch your crowdfunding once it’s off the ground. The whole thing is backwards in this case. In my opinion, the management for this project probably consists of a bunch of arrogant assholes who know jack shit about electronics. So fuck them.

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