|ColecoVision Video Game System (courtesy of wikipedia)|
In 2005, the Coleco brand was reintroduced to the general public by West River Holdings (WRH), a company that revitalizes older trademarks. Companies like WRH look for trademarks which have been dormant for some time but had been previously been associated by the public with a successful product or service. These trademarks could simply discontinued by the user of the mark or abandoned when the owner went out of business. WRH typically forms an LLC to manage and promote each trademark it acquires. In Coleco's case, it was Coleco Holdings, LLC. In 2016, WRH and its brands were purchased by Dormitus Brands, another trademark holding company.
For the remainder of this article, where it is necessary to distinguish the two, I will refer to the original Coleco, the company that was sold in the late 1980s as the "old Coleco". The WRH incarnation will be referred to as the "new Coleco". Let's discuss the legacy of the old Coleco vs. the new Coleco.
|Coleco Telstar Arcade (courtesy of wikipedia)|
More recently, the new Coleco allowed its name to be licensed for the atgames ColecoVision Flashback console. The ColecoVision Flashback came with sixty games, forty-eight of them were contemporary to the original Coleco while twelve were homebrews. The Coleco Flashback also came with detachable controllers that were physical replicas of the original controllers but functionally incompatible with the original console and slightly smaller than the originals.
|Coleco Adam Home Computer (courtesy of wikipedia)|
There are many games on the Coleco that were ports from the Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit home computers or the Atari 5200, pretty much everything released by Activision and Imagic were ports from the rival systems. Unlike its rival, the Intellivision, the Coleco just really does not have any unique great or many exclusive games to call its own. Moreover, few people really like the Coleco controller. It is uncomfortable and accessing the two buttons (one on either side of the pad) is not well suited to fast arcade action. The control knob is very imprecise. The Coleco Adam was the home computer version with more RAM. a full keyboard, built-in programs and a printer. Unfortunately the Adam was beset with a host of problems and was a colossal failure for Coleco.
|Coleco Sonic (courtesy of amazon.com)|
If you consider the Coleco the most technologically advanced system for 1982, its dominance did not last long. (Weirdly, the Coleco and the Atari 5200 (also released in 1982) had 1979 antecedents in the TI-99/4 and the Atari 400 & 800, respectively). Less than a year after its release, Sega released a near-clone of the Coleco in Japan called the SG-1000. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Famicom was also released at the same time of the Sega system and bested the SG-1000 in every way. Donkey Kong as a Famicom launch title was far more impressive and closer to the arcade than the version packed in with the Coleco. While the Adam version has all the arcade animations and levels, you needed an Adam or Expansion Module #3, which converted the ColecoVision to an Adam.
|ColecoVision Flashback (courtesy of amazon.com)|
The Flashback, released in 2014, was undoubtedly the highlight for the new Coleco. Its next major venture, however, would do the company no credit. When the RetroVGS failed to come close to its Indiegogo target, it looked like a failed venture in December of 2015. Then a month later, the RetroVGS was resurrected as the Coleco Chameleon. Mike Kennedy, the man who was the driving force behind the pie-in-the-sky goals of the RetroVGS campaign, struck a licensing deal with the new Coleco. With the branding of the Coleco name and the original molds for the Atari Jaguar console shell, he demonstrated a "prototype" at the New York Toy Fair in February of 2016.
From the beginnings of the show, many observers began to question the legitimacy of the prototype. They believed that inside the Jaguar/Chameleon shell was the motherboard of a SNES mini (SNS-101). The Chameleon prototype used wired SNES controllers, had the rear connectors of a SNES mini, was powered by a 3-in-1 power supply suitable for a NES, SNES or Genesis and was running an sd2snes flash cart. The new Coleco rallied to the defense of its new partner, as did some other partners like (the former pirate who runs) Piko Interactive. However, the second protype was shown in a clear Jaguar shell and ultimately turned out to be a PC DVI capture card. At that point Coleco gave Mike Kennedy seven days to allow them to inspect the prototype, and when he could not meet that demand, they severed all ties with him and doomed the Coleco Chameleon to history.
RWB has used a rather controversial tactic in relation to trademarks, trademark squatting.
Essentially, when someone wishes to seek trademark protection, they must file an Intent to Use application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This application is sent to an examiner for review. The Intent to Use protects the applicant for a period of six months, intended to allow the applicant to begin to use his trademark in trade or commerce without having to compete with others trying to use that mark. At the end of the six month period, the applicant must file a Statement of Use, where they include a sworn statement informing the USPTO how they have used the mark. The Applicant can obtain six six month extensions of time to file the SoU. So for a period of forty two months (3.5 years), they can tie up anyone else who would use that mark. During that time, a company wanting to introduce its product may have a powerful motivation to settle with a trademark squatter, as explained here : http://www.insidecounsel.com/2010/05/01/trademark-squatting-on-the-rise-in-us
RWB is a marketing company, not a video game company. As the first article cited in the previous paragraph indicates, RWB did not make, manufacture or sell anything, they only license the Coleco branding to anyone with whom they can make a deal. They had failed to conduct their due diligence prior to entering into an agreement with Mike Kennedy. Mike Kennedy's first commercial venture, Game Gavel, was supposed to be the great eBay alternative to selling video games. However, almost no one bought or sold there by the time of the Chameleon. Even Mike Kennedy sold his items on eBay after Game Gavel was in operation, an illustration of chutzpah if ever there was one.
Mike Kennedy's second commercial venture, Retro Videogame Magazine, was having serious difficulties delivering on its second Kickstarter campaign pledges and had alienated many contributors to the magazine with a chaotic publishing schedule and many customers with the declining quality of the magazine's content. Now it is reduced to begging on Patreon for funding to publish new issues of the Magazine. Had RWB done their due diligence on Mike Kennedy's retrogaming business ventures and the conduct of the RetroVGS campaign, they should have stayed far away.
After the Coleco Chameleon debacle, the new Coleco has been pretty quiet of late. They did solicit some community advice on the AtariAge forums about making a new line of mini-Arcades. I loved the Coleco Pac-Man mini-Arcade I had when I was a kid and regret the day I threw it away. It was loud, took four C batteries and did not particularly look or sound like the arcade game. One of its best features was its Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD), allowing it to be played in the dark. It also had a two-player simultaneous mode and played like Pac-Man. I have a Pac-Man electronic game made by Basic Fun that has the same concept as the Coleco mini-Arcade and looks and sounds closer to the arcade game, but it uses a monochrome non-backlit LCD display.