Coleco is a company that has dabbled in everything from shoe leather to toys, but what the company is best known for is its video game consoles. They released their Telstar console in 1976, but their true fame lies in the ColecoVision console released in August of 1982. The ColecoVision was an icon of the early ’80s, and now Coleco is looking to introduce that good vibes electronica to our own decade with a brand new console.
Dubbed the “Coleco Chameleon,” this new console is aiming to bring back the arcade-style games of yore to modern living rooms. The Chameleon will play the remembered 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit titles of old, such as Donkey Kong or Frogger. It will also play new 2D games designed in our own time, allowing publishers to deliver their own brand of modern-retro gaming to the massive flat screen TVs of today. Best of all, the console will deliver both of these experiences with a long forgotten, yet very unique delivery system: cartridges.
Whether you are 40 and looking to be 8 again, or you’re 20 and enjoy the esoteric 16-bit video game style, the Coleco Chameleon has something to offer you. Coleco’s intention is to deliver a console that melds both the arcade culture of the ’80s with the modern 2D games that can be found on Valve’s Steam platform, Xbox Live, or a smartphone. Alone these ideas may not have warranted a platform, but with the marriage of both old and new, Coleco hopes to find a living room market many didn’t know existed. Indie developers are already happy to deliver these 2D games in our modern era, but with a new platform to capitalize on, a resurgence of retro games isn’t an unfounded expectation. Gems like tobyfox’s Undertale could soon become common occurrences accessible in gamer’s living rooms.
The Chameleon is a collaborative project between Coleco and Retro Video Game Systems. Coleco, previously bankrupt, has only recently emerged back into the gaming world in 2005. Since their resurrection, Coleco has introduced a handheld system called the Coleco Sonic which focused on Sega games, but has otherwise done little else. The Coleco Chameleon could very well be their big break, and it seems as though the company is banking on that fact. “It’s ironic that a new ‘retro’ video-game system would actually revolutionize and revitalize the Coleco brand,” says Coleco partner Chris Cardillo. Whether the Chameleon is Coleco’s ticket to returning to gaming relevancy is yet to be seen, but the buzz surrounding the console should have the company feeling hopeful.
Trends and fads are cyclical, even in the world of video games. Coleco is hoping to capture a niche market of gamers who appreciate platforms of the past, and what those platforms can bring to the present. This idea is reminiscent to the resurgence of vinyl records, and the culture that surrounds that musical platform. Just like vinyl stores, antique gaming markets are popping up all over the United States, giving gamers access to the consoles and cartridges they crave. Just as some music fans enjoy the action of placing a record on the turntable, so do some gamers enjoy the action of blowing dust from their favorite video game. The timing could not be better for Coleco as demand rises with a lack of supply.
With that said, a cartridge console could just as easily fall flat on its face. The retro gaming market could be too niche to provide long term marketable success. It’s possible gamers today prefer their retro style games on their PCs or phones. Cartridges could become the next vinyl, or they could become viewed as a gimmick. Whether gamers only want Donkey Kong on their phone, or if they’d like it in their living room is the question Coleco intends to answer one way or another moving forward. Keep an eye out for the Coleco Chameleon which will be shown at Toy Fair New York in February of 2016, and then launched sometime later that year.