Cartridge-Based Gaming Isn’t Dead Yet: The Coleco Chameleon
Back in July, I had done a write-up on the ZOG Blog about what I considered an exciting development in modern gaming. Ironically, that “exciting development in modern gaming” was actually an appeal and resurgence of cartridge-based console gaming, and it would take the form of: the Retro VGS.
This was an exciting idea, and the guys behind the Retro VGS had made some interesting moves–before they even started crowdfunding (a crowdfund that was not a successful process, fortunately or unfortunately)–which included the fact that they purchased the design molds for the ill-fated but still impressive for the 90’s game console: the Atari Jaguar. This saved potentially millions of dollars of production costs, as much of the cost of starting any device, let alone game consoles, is design. The Atari Jaguar–Atari’s last ditch effort at game consoles–is a slick looking console to boot (minus the controller), so having that as your template for a 21st Century system that is going to bring 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit gaming back to center stage on its classic distribution system of cartridges (no digital distribution whatsoever, WOO!) was a great idea.
Again, sadly, various setbacks and issues with crowdfunding led many to believe that the system was dead in the water. Miraculously (to be sure, I don’t believe in miracles, I’m an atheist), however, an unlikely hero came riding in recently to bring this idea back to life: Coleco.
For those that don’t remember, Coleco was a company that had a bit of a hit on its hands in the 80’s when it came to video games, that being the ColecoVision video game console. While I can only really remember dying to play “Gyruss” on the system as a kid (as compared to me having to play it at the arcade endlessly), I still remember it being a solid system. IGN has even named it the 12th greatest game console in history, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Of course, why hasn’t Coleco made any other serious consoles since then? Sadly, the company went defunct in 1988, so the Coleco we’re dealing with now isn’t the same Coleco that wowed consumers from 1932 (yes, 1932) to 1988. This is the company that was revived in 2005, and was behind the creation of the ColecoVision Flashback system which had 61 ColecoVision games built-in and was a complete recreation of the classic console.
So at least the modern Coleco has already been involved in a product release, which was a concern raised over the Retro VGS being done by “new blood” in the console space. Creating and releasing a console–especially one whose games are cartridge-based instead of digital downloads (like say, the failed Ouya)–is no small task, no matter which smart moves a company makes at the onset.
Many people in the gaming space have raised other concerns over what they think is the impracticality of creating a system that is entirely cartridge-based, much of which is the cost of creating cartridges, and the cost of distribution. I don’t think any of these concerns are that valid, especially if the company attempting it recognizes that they are dealing in a niche space…at first. The best thing any company can do starting out is to create a “cult community” around it that is ridiculously passionate about the idea. And I think a classic-styled console that plays original games with equally classic-styling is something people would be passionate about. When people are passionate about something, frankly, they do all the marketing for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as what’s getting pushed is a good idea.
And good ideas are good ideas, and I think the Retro VGS was one such good idea, and now Coleco has recognized it as one, as well, and is going forward with creating a classic console with the Retro VGS team and design, and they’re calling it the Coleco Chameleon console.
Beautiful, isn’t it? While few details have been released on when this is going to hit the streets, I personally can’t wait. You can read my thoughts on why I’m so excited about this kind of console here, but suffice to say I love the idea of system that doesn’t rely on some bullshit server from around the world to run and get games from (that can just as easily get shut down, never to play the games again, something I talk about often on Sovryn Tech), and that could potentially last me the literal decades that my Atari 2600 has. Also, of course, I love the idea of having to have people right in the room with you if you want to do some multiplayer…no internet connection, no dealing with dipshits halfway around the world. The good times have to happen live and in person on the Chameleon, and that’s exciting on its own with this system. While yes, this isn’t going to be some kind of high-end graphics-able console, that isn’t a concern either, as the games that the Chameleon can play are all the rage today: Retro 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit modern hits. No need to port the latest Final Fantasy to this system, just make games of that ilk like they were made back when that series mattered, anyway.
And personally, I have every intention of doing what it takes to get my own games from Zomia Offline Games (HYPERCRONIUS and Ninja Trek) onto the Coleco Chameleon once its done and out there. And I do think there is a serious market for this stuff. In a time when new Jurassic Park, Terminator, Star Wars, Star Trek, and all manner of 80’s and 90’s goodness are making waves again (even El Nino is back to fuck with the weather!), I can’t see any reason why people wouldn’t want to go whole-hog and get back to gaming the way it was done for decades. The day that the Chameleon is released can’t come soon enough. Let the good times roll again.
DISCLAIMER: The ZOG Blog is the part of this site where Dr. Brian Sovryn can talk about anything. From pop culture, to philosophy, to just sharing updates with what’s going on at Zomia Offline Games and with other projects. Enjoy!