The Coleco Chameleon: A clusterfuck of fabrications and outright lies.
If you’ve been looking at the “mainstream” press recently, you might have seen them quoting verbatim press releases about a new retro cartridge based videogame console called the Coleco Chameleon.
This machine was touted as a callback to gaming of the past, using Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology to accurately simulate old console hardware with astonishing accuracy that software emulation cannot match, backwards compatible with pretty much every system via cartridge adapters, along with new all-original titles released on carts developed by members of the console homebrew community.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.
Let me give you a little background: This console is the brainchild of Mike Kennedy, a man who, sometime back, bought the tooling and moulds of the cursed Atari Jaguar from a gentleman who had been for a time using them to make enclosures for his dental devices.
Now Mr Kennedy had a great idea – make a new console using Jaguar shells. After all, making the cases for a console is, like, 90% of all the hard work, right?
So, in September 2015 he decides to crowdfund his efforts on Indiegogo under the name “Retro VGS”.
Why Indiegogo? because Kickstarter requires you to have an actual fuckin’ prototype – something Kennedy lacked… All he had was a printout of a circuit board stuck on some card.
How much did he ask for? A jaw-dropping $1.95 million.
A video was posted of one of Mike’s business partners, John Carlsen showing off an alleged prototype underneath a clear Jag shell.
Eagle-eyed nerds spotted in a second that the circuit board underneath was an off-the-shelf FPGA development board and nothing that they’d created themselves.
Needless to say they got nowhere near their target.
Fast forward to December and Mike Kennedy had returned! This time he’d managed to acquire permission to use the Coleco branding from the holding company that owns the trademark.
The new name for the console: The Coleco Chameleon.
And oh boy, this is where the story gets good…
You see, last month, he decided to unveil his latest prototype at the New York Toy Fair – The biggest trade show of it’s type where manufacturers show off their wares in an attempt to get fat cash and distribution deals, prior to launching an NEW Kickstarter campaign on February 26th.
And unveil it he did. Allegedly demonstrating the SNES core of his new FPGA prototype, Mike showed off the console playing old SNES games along with a homebrew title developed by Piko Interactive with astonishing accuracy to the original hardware.
The mainstream press, as always, mindlessly regurgitated Kennedy’s press releases with the absolute minimum of research, not even casually mentioning that his console had already struck out once.
But to onlookers, alarm bells were ringing – Why does that cartridge seem so wobbly in the slot? Why is there a large protrusion coming out the back covered in black electrical tape? Why are they using hardwired SNES controllers? Why doesn’t it have a power button? Why is a modern console with alleged HDMI support connected to a CRT by what looks like a proprietary SNES composite video cable? Why is it using a third party SNES power supply?
Have you guessed yet? The answer is: Because inside that Jag case was nothing more than an actual SNES. The later, smaller SNES Jr, in fact. It wasn’t too long before somebody took a photo of a SNES Jr under a Jag case proving this with 99.9999% certainty.
…And the cart? Well that was an SD2SNES, taped to the front half of a Jaguar cartridge casing. Nice.
Now you’d think with all this out in the open Mikey-Boy might’ve run away with his tail between his legs and that’d be and end to it, wouldn’t you? But ohhh no. He delays the Kickstarter and decides to double down.
In a desperate attempt to silence nay-sayers, he releases an all-new image of the Chameleon “prototype”, in a clear case. The circuit board clearly isn’t a SNES Jr. Is this the fabled real prototype?
Of course it isn’t, because that doesn’t exist. The circuit board you are seeing inside that casing is a HICAP50B PCI video capture card, for use in DVRs and CCTV, with a LED stuck on it.
It took the fine folks at the Atari Age forums (who were responsible for figuring out all of Mike’s previous tomfoolery) less than 20 minutes to work this out.
After this, Retro VGS/Mike Kennedy’s social media presence has gone suspiciously quiet, and the images were removed… Because, as we all know, once you delete something off the internet it’s gone forever.
Suffice to say the Kickstarter launch never happened. Not that you’d know anything about any of this – The press that were so eager to read the press release line for line haven’t really bothered to cover the fallout.
The moral of this story: Never, EVER try to hoodwink, cheat or lie to a bunch of nerds and geeks with enough technical knowledge to call you out on it.
…And the press are brainless morons who can never be bothered to fact check.
UPDATE-ME-DO: Coleco Holdings appear to not be taking this lightly, and are demanding a working prototype in 7 days, else they’ll pull their name from it. More info via Facebook.
UPDATE-ME-DO ON THE UPDATE-ME-DO: Mike Kennedy (unsurprisingly) didn’t come to the show-and-tell and Coleco put this white elephant down.
It’s all over, for now… Until he finds a new lie he thinks he can get away with. Or something.