Coleco severs ties with Retro VGS over Chameleon fraud

March 9, 2016 // 4:13 p.m.

Tags: #chameleon #coleco #coleco-chameleon #colecovision #crowd-funding #fraud #indiegogo #kickstarter #prototype #retro-vgs

Coleco has officially pulled out of its joint Chameleon project with Retro VGS, after demanding the company show off the working prototypes it claimed to have to independent engineers within seven days - something the company was apparently incapable of doing.

Coleco, a brand which has appeared on everything from home computers and games consoles to Cabbage Patch Dolls since its founding as the Connecticut Leather Company in 1932, announced the Chameleon in December last year as a joint project with Retro Video Games Systems (Retro VGS). A rebranding of the company's eponymous console, which sought nearly $2 million in crowd-funding but finished its campaign with just over $80,000, the Coleco Chameleon was positioned as the ultimate device for retro gaming enthusiasts. Custom-built around an FPGA chip and housed in a repurposed Atari Jaguar housing, the system was to play games from the 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit console era loaded into the system on collectable physical cartridges.

Earlier this month, however, the project was thrown into chaos when attendees at a toy fair claimed that Retro VGS was misrepresenting its product. Hardware shown off as working Chameleon prototypes, but shown playing Super Nintendo games exclusively, was found to be nothing more than a cheap SNES clone duct-taped into place within the Jaguar housing; when the company posted pictures of another alleged prototype in a translucent housing, it was quickly discovered to be nothing more than an outdated PCI video capture card on its side.

Amid this controversy, Coleco acted quickly: the company announced that it was demanding that Retro VGS allow independent engineers access to the prototypes the company had long claimed to have in-hand so that their functionality - and, indeed, very existence - could be verified. Retro VGS was given a seven-day deadline, and with the deadline up the company has told Coleco that it will not be providing any prototypes.

In a post to its Facebook page, Coleco announced the following: 'Retro VGS has decided that the work that they have created is not sufficient to demonstrate at this time. 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.'

Coleco's claims of an amicable parting has suggested the company will not be proceeding with a legal claim for fraud against Retro VGS, despite the latter company having long stated that its prototypes were in a near-finished state and completely ready for demonstration as well as the now-cancelled launch of a crowd-funding campaign and only now having admitted that its work is 'not sufficient' to be publicly viewed.

Retro VGS has not commented on the matter, and has removed its Facebook page from public view.
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