The news of the Coleco Chameleon hit in December 2015 and the press release was EVERYWHERE.  People who had fond memories of their Colecovision were once again excited that Coleco was FINALLY releasing another system.  The kicker?  It would once again play cartridges!  A Kickstarter was set to launch and I myself was quite excited to get one.

Then a funny thing happened.  Pat Contri and Ian Ferguson of the Completely Unnecessary Podcast were quick to point out that this unit was not actually being made by Coleco.  The Coleco name was just being licensed for use with this console.  It was licensed to Mike Kennedy who was rebranding a system once called the Retro VCS (which had tried crowdfunding and failed quite miserably).  Some were vocal about the shortcomings of the original campaign and had some severe doubts behind this new system.  Pat and Ian basically felt it was snake oil right from the beginning.  So did the message board members over at AtariAge.com (an amazing website devoted to everything Atari and host of a magnificent message board) who had bad dealings with Kennedy in the past and weren’t so sure about this new Coleco Chameleon console.

Once the New Year hit there was no greater soap opera in the retro gaming world then the saga of the Coleco Chameleon.  It was like a thriller that you could not put down.  A Kickstarter was announced and pulled at the last second.  The prototype unit was brought to Toy Fair in NYC but as board members at Atari Age looked at the videos and pictures coming out of Toy Fair they noticed something very odd.  Pictures showed this prototype unit taped up with electrical tape.  The controllers were actual SNES controllers.

It was soon determined that the prototype shown at Toy Fair was simply a SNES Mini (a redesign of the original Super Nintendo) stuffed into an Atari Jaguar shell (Kennedy owned the rights to make the Jaguar shells and was determined to use the shells for the Chameleon).

The news was everywhere – especially over on YouTube where nearly every single retro reviewer had a field day with the news.  Once again Pat and Ian kicked major ass with amazing reporting and commentary on the CU Podcast.  The AtariAge website was FIRE as well.  Hundreds of people were on their boards reading shocking revelation after shocking revelation in real time.  I was right there lurking the whole time – I actually went back and read every thread on not just the Coleco Chameleon but the debacle of the Retro VCS as well.

Mike Kennedy retreated and pictures/videos of the first prototype disappeared from the Coleco Chameleon’s media sites (of course it was by far too late as everyone else had already saved the evidence – you can still find footage from Toy Fair on YouTube).  When he returned he had pictures of a whole new prototype.  This one was in a clear shell instead of a black shell (like the one used at Toy Fair).  There was no more SNES controllers.  Here was the motherboard for everyone to see – HERE IS THE NEW PROTOTYPE!  Within HOURS the good folks at AtariAge identified that the motherboard inside this clear shell was nothing but a computer capture card.  A second fake!  The photos disappeared again.

ONCE AGAIN the Internet was ablaze.  God bless Pat and Ian because they seemed like they were sick of talking about the Chameleon but as fans kept coming in droves to listen or watch the podcast they seemed more than happy to keep reporting on the news.

Coleco Holdings (who owns the Coleco name) issued an ultimatum: show us the prototype or we withdraw our name from the product.  No prototype was ever shown, Coleco withdrew their name and support, and the Chameleon Facebook and website almost instantaneously disappeared (the Twitter followed soon afterward).  After months of talking about their product the Coleco Chameleon vanished without a trace.

The melodrama was high and the whole tale was just stunning.  Mike Kennedy did make an appearance on the AtariAge forums much later trying to play off like he was a patsy – but no one was having it.  The world knew he kept trying to pass off fakes to con the retro gaming world and the retro gaming world was having none of it.

The Chameleon saga introduced me to the CU Podcast on YouTube which I still watch to this very day.  Ian and Pat touch on many subject relevant to gaming and entertainment  – while still caring deeply about the retro market.  They also crowd-source story ideas on Twitter and Facebook so if there is a topic you want to hear them discuss all you have to do is mention it for them to take it into consideration.  There are many great YouTubers out there doing podcasts but I consider the CU Podcast to be the best of the best and they proved it time and time again over 2016.  I love that they are fearless and will call scumbags out on their bullshit.  You can check out the CU Podcast here along with a slew of other content.

I stopped going to the AtariAge forums a couple months after the debacle when the Coleco Chameleon thread stopped really being about the Chameleon.  The damage was done and the story faded away.  But this summer when I acquired my Atari 2600 I went back to the website and now continue to use it as an amazing resource on EVERYTHING Atari.  Not only do they talk games for the 2600 but all the systems/games put out by Atari including the 5200, 7800, Lynx, and Jaguar.  I can spend hours there looking at the games trying to figure out what I want, what I don’t want, and how easy/hard it may be to find them.  I need to get back to the message boards as well – I really need to find a cheap copy of H.E.R.O.

The Coleco Chameleon will fade into obscurity – just the latest piece of vaporware to never hit shelves.  But I truly hope one day someone will sit down and write an in-depth version of the amazing tale.  Or at least do a kickass retrospective on YouTube.  It truly made the first couple months of 2016 highly entertaining.