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There's a waft of dodgy about the Coleco Chameleon console

UPDATE: Coleco pulls name from project.

UPDATE 9TH MARCH: The writing appears to be on the wall for the Coleco Chameleon. Coleco, the brand, has pulled out of the project, taking its name - and the best chance the console had at finding a foothold - with it.

Coleco made the announcement on Facebook. "Retro VGS has decided that the work that they have created is not sufficient to demonstrate at this time," it said. "Consequently, we can no longer proceed with the project and the Chameleon project will be terminated. This separation is amicable. We wish them luck in the future. - We thank the gaming community for their continued support, input, vigilance and trust."

Retro VGS, meanwhile, pulled its Facebook page from view.

ORIGINAL STORY 4TH MARCH: A brand new retro console that uses plastic cartridges - tempting, right? That's what this whole Coleco Chameleon issue is about. A company called Retro Video Game Systems has a machine called the Coleco Chameleon and it was inches away from Kickstarter - until some strange and worrying things started to happen.

Retro VGS showed the Coleco Chameleon at the Toy Fair event in New York a few weeks ago. This was to be the prototype's big unveiling, Retro VGS' chance to answer a mountain of questions piling up on Facebook - a chance to create a wave of hype and surf it onto Kickstarter. But it backfired.

The Coleco Chameleon was at the Toy Fair, and Retro VGS hosted demonstrations, but it wasn't long before people started pointing out oddities. Why was the Coleco Chameleon using apparently hardwired SNES controllers and not its own controllers seen in pictures? Why was it only playing SNES games? And why was there a load of ugly gaffer tape around the back of the unit? Theories emerged.

Some people claimed the Coleco Chameleon wasn't a prototype of a new console at all, but a SNES Jr. inside an Atari Jaguar - the innards of one in the shell of another. Look at the back, retro connoisseurs said - why does it jut out by an inch and why is it taped? And those output ports and leads: they're exactly the same as the SNES Jr.'s, they said. Then someone recreated the Frankenstein machine - a SNES Jr. inside a Jaguar - and it looked exactly the same.

He's not pleased and summarises it well - with occasional bad language.

Retro VGS' response, on Facebook, was to announce a delay to the imminent Kickstarter campaign. But not because it was admitting any fault - instead "to make it even better".

Here's what Retro VGS said: "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."

The closest Retro VGS came to addressing the criticism was this: "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," it said, "and we'll focus on turning our prototype into a production-ready product."

Problem is, one of those photos showed a bit too much: a top-down image of a Coleco Chameleon with a transparent case and no watermark. It allowed the collective eyes of the internet to peer at the chipboard within, and soon something remarkably like it was found - a PC DVR capture card.

coleco_chameleon_dvr

Hmm.

The picture was removed but there are red flags in the images that remain. There's no obvious sign of wiring from machine to TV, nor are there any pictures of the rear of the unit to clear up any confusion.

Eurogamer was approached before this issue blew up by a company representing actor Chris Cardillo, who had invested in the "rebirth of Coleco". Would we like an interview? Yes. No response. Chris Cardillo hasn't said anything about Coleco Chameleon on Twitter since bigging it up in December. I also emailed Retro Video Game Systems earlier this week and have heard nothing back.

Incidentally, if the Coleco Chameleon rings a bell, it may be because Retro VGS tried to crowdfund a console exactly like it on Indiegogo in late 2015, but barely made a dent in the $1.95m goal. The price-tag attached to Retro VGS was $299, but apparently the plan is/was to make the Coleco Chameleon cheaper.

The Coleco Chameleon might also ring a bell because you remember the ColecoVision console from the early '80s, which is the brand Retro VGS is trying to trade upon here. But if you do, you're older than me, and apparently I'm not young any more.

The Coleco Chameleon story goes deeper and there's an active thread on the Atari Age forum following it step by step. There's a shorter thread on our own forum, too.

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