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Coleco Chameleon: Officially DEAD

Coleco Chameleon: Officially DEAD



Coleco Chameleon is officially dead!

Coleco partner Chris Cardillo gave Engadget the following statement, which will also appear on Coleco’s Facebook page:

“Retro has decided that the work that they have created is not sufficient to demonstrate at this time. Consequently, we can no longer proceed with the project and the Chameleon project will be terminated. This separation is amicable. We wish Retro luck in the future.”

At this point the Retro VGS is never going to happen because the damage that has been done to the system. While I had hoped that there would be a good outcome to the system there is no way that anyone is going to back this at this point. I still believe that Mike Kennedy had the best intentions but just didn’t have the skill or infrastructure to pull this off. The biggest problem was the actual architecture of the machine that just was not there.

This is on the heels of David Giltinan leaving Retro Gaming Magazine recently announced his departure from the magazine. He cited the ongoing issues with the Chameleon as the impetus behind his leaving, saying,

“I have to separate myself from everything associated with it.” Though he conceded poor messaging from RetroVGS, he also asserted that there was “no ill intent or maliciousness on the part of the team.”

The writing is on the wall because RetroVGS has deleted its Facebook page and its website is unavailable. For some great insight from Coleco Holdings LLC Chris Cardillo was on a recent Colecovisions podcast that is really fascinating to hear what his thoughts were before today’s announcement. 

Below is the original story that ran a few days ago.

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the Retro VGS and later re-branded as the Coleco Chameleon gaming system. It is billed as a new system that plays 8bit and 16 bit cartridge based games and would include both new games and collections of older system games. The founder Mike Kennedy is a fan of retro gaming and is the founder of Retro Videogame Magazine and Gamegavel auction site.

The case for the system and the cartridges are based on the Atari Jaguar system that the company bought the molds of the defunct system. The system was announced and originally was going to be a Kickstarter project but because of the rule that you must have a working prototype of the item and Retro VGS was still working on the prototype system they started a Indigogo campaign that ultimately flamed out quite spectacularly. The project had a $1,950,000 goal that essentially was asking the public to finance the majority of the cost of production. After only a few weeks the total contributions were $81,158 and the campaign was suspended on November 3rd 2015.

On December 16th it was unveiled on their Facebook page that they had teamed up with the company that owns the rights to the ColecoVision catalog and the Retro VGS was re-branded the Coleco Chameleon. The prototype system was unveiled at the 2016 Toy Fair in New York and here is the video of him playing the system.

Things seemed to be going along smoothly and it was announced that there would be a Kickstarter for the system to go live on February 13th 2016. Then they said it would be on February 26th. While it is not unusual for a new system to have prototype issues and delays, it did seem rather odd that they were showing off the system at Toy Fair and yet it was still unclear if the game was actually running on the “prototype” or off stage. This is not unusual because when Microsoft was showing off the Xbox 360 they were actually running off of Apple G5 towers underneath the shells on display. Then there was this post on their Facebook page with an update of what was going on.


We’re delaying the Kickstarter for the Coleco Chameleon to make it even better!
Last week during Toy Fair in New York, we had the opportunity to demonstrate the Coleco Chameleon to the industry, gamers and retailers for the first time. Their response was beyond anything we’d imagined. Major retailers provided feedback on the product and expressed real interest in carrying the product for the 2016 holiday season. And, very importantly, major game companies expressed interest in providing games for our system, which meant we’d need more time to solidify those partnerships and maximize the content.
Our team’s overriding goal has always been to deliver the best possible system and experience for gamers. If there’s ever anything we can do to enhance the product, we believe the extra time is worth it. Therefore, we have decided to delay the pre-sell, i.e. Kickstarter, campaign in order to finalize our prototype and work with developers on having the best possible content. This delay will not affect our overall launch date for the Coleco Chameleon.
There has also been a whirlwind of interest, speculation and curiosity regarding the insides of the Chameleon. We are delighted by this and happy to confirm that we will be releasing photographs of the system now on our Facebook page, and we’ll focus on turning our prototype into a production-ready product.
We’ll keep you posted on any major news on our Facebook page and will let you know when we launch a pre-sell program leading up to the Christmas season. Stay tuned, and thanks for your continued support.

There were rumblings over the weekend over at the AtariAge forums of one of the pictures of the system in a clear case seemed a little off. (Click the link above to see the start of the finding of the board in question.)


One member noticed something odd about the board and discovered that it was a DVR board and would in no way run a video game system.


This is when things really fell off the rails for the retro gaming community. While a lot of the post are sadly typical internet trolling on the project but there was an interesting video posted today by Brian Thomas Barnhart who host the Jag Bar videos on YouTube. He was approached by Mike to do the video for the Kickstarter campaign and his insight to the project is pretty fascinating.

I found Brian’s comments to be quite enlightening and not about trolling the topic but adding good discussion to the mystery surrounding the project.

Here is my thoughts on the Coleco Chameleon. First I am a huge retro gaming fan and own nearly every video game system produced so I was very interested in this new system that had a lot of promise of being both new and old at the same time. Second the “outrage” by a lot of the retro community is not helping anything. They act like Mike is screwing them personally. It is very frustrating that they project has had major problems, and it’s disappointing that the prototypes are not what they seem. I and anyone not involved with the project directly have absolutely zero investment in the system so people need to calm down and stop acting like someone betrayed them personally.


While I do not know Mike Kennedy personally, I have met him on a number of occasions and not only is he a fan of retro gaming he is a very nice and very pleasant person to talk to. While I am now a little skeptical of the project I do think that the vast majority of the issues associated with this project is that Mike got in way over his head. I don’t think that Mike really understood what it was going to take to put a system like this together and while he had a lot of enthusiasm I doubt that there was any real infrastructure for the project. I think he thought he could get some friends and colleagues together and make this system work. It was a wise move to join with the company who owns the ColecoVision brand to use their deep pockets to fund the project. You do need to remember that the company who owns the ColecoVision library is just a shell company who buys properties to make money off them. They have no real products and it states on their website Coleco Holdings LLC is a subsidiary of River West Brands LLC which acquires, redevelops, and monetizes iconic brand intellectual property. They saw this as an opportunity to continue to build the ColecoVision brand name on the project. I am not defending nor condemning MIke or Coleco Holdings for the project. While I understand retro gamers frustration of the project they are a small minority compared to the possible payoff of the system at retail in places like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us.
The real question now is if there will every be a real prototype or even final system? While Coleco Holdings has a financial stake in the system now, they will only throw money at the project so long. The real problem is Mike keeps promising things that he can’t deliver currently and until he has more of the bugs worked out in the development phase he needs to get things on track before they look at more crowd funding for the project. With these allegations of vaporware they are going to have a hard time getting anyone to donate money with their questionable system and the chance that it may never materialize. Only time will tell if the Coleco Chameleon will actually materialize or become another foot note in video gaming history.


Coloeco Holdings just issued a statement about the possibility of a non working prototype on their Facebook page with the following statement;

Chameleon Product: We are thankful to have a large group of passionate engineers and retro game enthusiasts who follow Coleco and other product lines. It has come to our attention that the community has certain concerns over the prototypes involving the Retro VGS model. The team at Retro remains confident that their product is developed to the extent as describe; HOWEVER, in order to confirm or debase these concerns, Coleco has demanded to inspect the prototype units within a seven day time frame. At which time, independent engineers will review their findings and determine if those units are up to our standards. We will report some or all of those findings to the community so as long as they do not interfere with proprietary information. We remain hopeful that the community’s concerns are merely speculations, but if there is merit to the concerns, then we have no choice but to abandon the project rather than release a sub-par product. During this time, we ask that the community allow us time to complete these inspections. Time extensions will only be granted if requested by the independent engineer. Time extensions and results will be posted here.

So the story of the Retro VGS/Coleco Chameleon is far from over. We will keep you updated on the story.