Not long ago, a new console attempted to get its feet off the ground through Kickstarter crowdfunding, the RetroVGS. Re-using the console shell from the Atari Jaguar, it was going to provide a new ARM-based cartridge system while also hoping to offer hardware emulation of some classic hardware platforms. That crowdfunding failed rather spectacularly, pulling in maybe 1% of the needed 2 million that they were asking for. I detailed that in a recent post, pointing out that the console did not have enough compelling exclusive content to justify the $300 expense.
After that failure the company didn’t give up and they have now found a partner to make the console come to life – Coleco. Coleco is a name that early 80s gamers will still recognize but after their collapse in the mid-80s, it hasn’t been a name that has shown up very often in recent years. The most it has been seen is with the launch of the Coleco Flashback, which was similar to the Atari Flashback or other #-games-in-one dedicated consoles that have been popular for the past 10 years or so. Overall I can’t say I heard Coleco fans pining for a new Coleco console on the same level as Sega or Atari fans but regardless, any fans with those dreams will now see it become a reality.
No longer the RetroVGS, the Coleco Chameleon is still promising much of the same ideas – cartridge based gaming, no downloads and one has to assume that the announced games for the RVGS will spill over. On top of that, they are promising the following:
The COLECO Chameleon also has the ability play brand-new games in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit styles, a growing and popular genre in today’s game scape.
Whether that means that their FPGA for hardware emulation will be allowing users to play ColecoVision and other classic system games or just games that “look” like 8/16/32 bit games remains to be seen. It would be nice if they can clear this up soon as in my view, one of the stronger selling points would have been to offer some excellent/exact emulation of classic or even unreleased console hardware. That said, it is not looking like they will offer Jaguar hardware/software which is a bit strange given that they have the Jag’s shell (and the Jaguar is an open platform so there are no legal issues there). Who knows, if this follows the old CV’s lead, maybe Expansion Modules will allow for that to happen down the road.
They also will need to shore up their exclusive games list to draw interest. If you are going to use the same business model as these products used in the 80s and 90s then you are going to have to use some similar attraction ideas as well – no compelling exclusive content gives me little to no reason to spend my cash on the product. Unfortunately for Coleco as a brand, they do not really have a solid library of original titles to pull from. Most of the CV library that the company had a hand in were arcade ports from IPs they didn’t own. Donkey Kong was a great pack-in for the system in 1982 but that’s not going to happen in 2016 for the Chameleon and even if it did, that’s not going to sell a million units.
Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see them succeed with the project and getting backing from at least one retro gaming name is a good direction for the continued existence of the machine and the idea. Perhaps they will be able to shore up that development support and make a good run at it – particularly with getting some homebrew games released for the machine – in addition to the classic hardware support. We’ll know soon enough when the machine is ‘unveiled’ at the Toy Fair in February.