Wrapping up the Coleco Chameleon and My Eventual Anger
The story is basically finished, the seemingly adaptable Coleco Chameleon, known formerly as the Retro VGS, is no more. We’ve already covered the topic quite a bit here, so I’ll just briefly mention that you can read about the history and my opinions of the console here, Jam and I took the concepts of the console and historically dissected them in a podcast here, and as of a press release yesterday on Engadget Coleco has pulled its name from the console. The reason this is the end of the road for the console has really little to do with Coleco pulling its name and rather why the company chose to do so.
As allegations were being thrown out left and right that the 2016 Toy Fair console showed off was nothing more than an SNES Jr. in an Atari Jaguar shell and the later revealed prototype model was proven to be a PCI capture card in a Jaguar shell, Coleco rightfully wanted proof that this device prototype actually existed. Not only did Coleco want to know, but Kickstarter flat out requires that you have a working prototype before you can post on the fundraising site these days. Coleco was fair in asking Retro VGS, the company behind the hardware, to present it a working prototype – as the company had previously contested they had – in order to keep the Coleco name. Yesterday marked the one week deadline and Coleco pulled the name because it still had yet to see a working prototype. That is the smoking gun. Not that it matters, but Atari has also followed-up to announce that they never had an agreement with Kennedy, Retro VGS, or the Chameleon to ever put any Atari games on the console either (source is in the same Engadget article above).
Without a prototype, the console that was once just a pipe dream on Retro Gaming Round-Up where host and president of Retro VGS Mike Kennedy (“So-Cal Mike”) envisioned a console that could play old games and act like a modern version of a cart console, remains still just that. This means that in the last year of hype, Kennedy leaving the podcast, several stories published in his own Retro Magazine, a failed attempt at $1.95 million on IndieGoGo, a licensing agreement with Coleco, and a reveal at the 2016 Toy Fair with immediate Kickstarter follow-up was all made with no actual technology or hardware to back it up. I’m not surprised that there isn’t a magic chip that can seamlessly become a bevy old school hardware doesn’t (yet) exist nor am I surprised that someone tried to cash in on this using crowd funding. I am, however, surprised that of all people Mike Kennedy was the man behind the ruse and that he used the empires he built like Retro Magazine and to a certain extent Retro Gaming Round-Up to do it. Even worse, he preyed upon retro fans like us to do it.
Up to this point in my coverage I have given Kennedy the benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever met him, spoken with him, or listened to his podcasts it’s clear that while his memory of the glory days and trivia about things as simple as what platform a game came out on is weak, he always seemed to genuinely love video games. Not only that, but Game Gavel and Retro Magazine are great for the retro scene (or at least the magazine was until the events that unfold in the next paragraph). Unfortunately with this farcical display of “get the money first and worry about the hardware later” I’m done with Mike Kennedy. If you want to go and be the Frankenstein of retro consoles, by all means have at it and show me what you come up with. If you want hardworking people that make up and an entire community of fantastic people to pay for your R&D and then see none of the profit off whatever you come up with, screw you. To me, that is borderline theft. This is bigger than a crowdfunding failure, a stupid idea for a console, and a bad slew of press, it’s flat out wrong.
It’s not without consequence, either. On Saturday, managing editor of Retro Magazine David Giltinan resigned and issued an explanation on LinkedIn that included the following lines: “With that, I apologize for any ignorance on my part for not fully following through with my desire for the truth when speaking about the console. Instead I allowed myself to become a vessel for misinformation, and for that I am again sorry.” Giltinan does take blame for being part of the creative team and even says later in the letter, “Those of you who believe we were simply trying to scam consumers or take advantage of the retro gaming community don’t know the whole picture. There was no ill intent or maliciousness on the part of the team. All we had in mind was to make a modern day retro-inspired console…” That’s all good and well Mike Kennedy, David Giltinan, and all the others involved in this project, but I don’t really care about intent when it comes to screwing people over, misinforming, or taking their money. You may be thieves with a heart of gold, but your are still thieves nonetheless. His own words admit to the fact that he flat out wrote pieces that either weren’t truthful or that misinformed the public. I sure hope Giltinan doesn’t expect to work in any sort of media capacity after his resignation because I sure as hell will never trust a damn thing he says. It also does not surprise me to see that all instances of Retro VGS and the Chameleon have been shut down (the site literally disappeared on me while I was browsing it for this write-up yesterday). I think this goes without saying, but I’m betting Retro Magazine is also on the way out given the concerning things that happened with the magazine, and in the least I hope that smart freelance writers including Jeremy Parish, Phil Kohler, Sean “Seanbaby” Reiley, and anyone else of value never write for them again. My subscription was canceled as of yesterday (and much to the support e-mail’s warning I didn’t care about not getting a refund) and I’ve canceled my account with Game Gavel.
Mike Kennedy and his team should be ashamed of what they did if only because they wanted to use our money to do it but without offering us the decency of being upfront. In my public relations training this is the biggest sin you can commit and it will always bite you back. Well Mr. Kennedy, I hope you’re ready for the backlash that has and is sure to come from more influential people then us lowly bloggers. As for me, I’m just frustrated that this puts yet another black spot on the games industry for seemingly childish behavior and that if someone who truly knows what they are doing wants to try to crowd source a cool concept like the Chameleon that it will be met with severe scrutiny. Still, this could also mean that the second someone does want to bring a new concept like this to a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo that it will come with so much backup and proof of concept that it will impress everyone. That’s the ideal future, at least. It’s all just so sad and ultimately we have Mike Kennedy to blame for it. I hope his peers at Retro Gaming Round-Up rip him a much deserved new one.
The views and opinions of this piece are that of the writer, Fred Rojas, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Gaming History 101 or its other contributors. In the case of this article, we want your opinion as well, so please feel free to leave a comment below on your own views. If enough feedback is received, we may do something with the community’s involvement.