Monday, February 15, 2016

Guest Blog: Dee Snyder CAN What COLECAN'T

This is a guest contribution from Nico Nillo.  Check him out on Twitter and on YouTube.

Well, well, well… it’s that time again. That time when everyone who’s anyone in the retro gaming scene kindly offers their sage-like advice on how to turn the Coleco Chameleon (née Retro VGS) into a marketing success story. While I have gone in depth to describe and critique this beautiful symphony of errors that is the Retro VGS project, I always stop short of giving them a list of ingredients they need, conditions to meet and hymns to sing in order to make money rain from the sky.

I stay away from offering that sort of advice because it’s simply not helpful. It typically involves factors that the Chameleon team has no control over and therefore this “advice” turns their failure into a self fulfilling prophecy. ”Well, y’know why they didn’t succeed- they didn’t listen to me! They didn’t secure an exclusive killer app, they failed to partner with Nintendo, and couldn’t get the price down to $40.” Well, duh! Of course they didn’t act on your advice, how could they?

What We Know
There is a way to successfully market a retro product that modern man wouldn’t touch with his stone spear but playing Weekend at Bernie’s with the Coleco brand isn’t going to cut it. If we want to propose our own marketing recipe that has any chance of succeeding, then we have to be realistic and work with what they have. So far we know they have: 1) the molds to the Atari Jaguar, 2) a working prototype, and 3) the guy running it may or may not be related to a cursed American political dynasty. So using those assets let’s create a marketing plan that can get this Spruce Goose of retro gaming off the ground!

Take a look back on Retro VGS after the failed Indigogo.

While they have several areas that are in desperate need of improvement, they have one fundamental problem that has gone largely ignored. Their project just isn’t fun. It’s worse than that, their product is a dark void where fun goes to die. Their Indiegogo pitch was delivered with the same zeal that you get from a middle-aged Pastor who turns his baseball cap backwards, adjusts his pleated pants, and tells his young parishioners “Yo, bros! You know who’s the coolest dude ever? His name was Jesus!!” Just because they say their console is “fun” that doesn’t make it so.

I don’t care what these guys are trying to sell me if they can’t dance Thriller while they do it

When selling a product or an idea, the best way to excite and have fun with your buyer is to feed into their imagination. If you can capture their imagination then you’ve captured their wallet. Car dealers do this all the time. No one buys a Corvette because they want to get anywhere fast, unless it’s with their passenger. In order to succeed the Coleco Chameleon can’t just sell you the 80’s in the form of old game ROMs like everyone else, it needs to sell you the 80’s that exists in your imagination! I’m talking about the debauchery and excess the 80’s is remembered for. So put the Cabbage Patch Kids to bed early and let’s crank that late 80’s ‘tude up to 11!!

Dee Snyder Does What Colecan't
First thing, they need a new spokesman. When Mike talks about retro gaming it’s like listening to grandpa explain the fashion trend of tying an onion to your belt.

… we didn’t have white onions back then, because of the Bit Wars…

Get a pitch man with some intensity. How about hiring Dee Snider? He’s a living, breathing artifact from the 80’s and he’s currently a disc jockey so I’m sure he’ll do any kind of pitch work for a quick paycheck. And add some fuzzy VHS effects to the video to give it that authentic retro flavor!

We’re not gonna take it!
We’re not gonna take DRM anymoooooorrrrrre!!!

But don’t think I’m cutting out Mike entirely. Just like transforming a pumpkin into an elegant carriage, or a Retro VGS into a Coleco Chameleon, our titular Mike will receive a makeover as well. From now on, Mike Kennedy Michael Dice Kennedy will only appear in public wearing a rhinestone studded biker jacket, a gold chain and a Brooklyn accent.

mk linked.jpg
Can't you trust my cold, dead eyes?

A Better Look
Now let’s get to the hardware itself. If there’s one thing we know they have complete creative control over it’s the color of the shell. While I’m sure many of us appreciated Mike’s subtle reference to Lite Bright with his previous transparent color options, that’s not the 80’s we’re shooting for here. For this, we want to stick to the neon and pastel colors of 80’s cinema. How about color options like “Miami Pink,” “South Beach Blue,” “Purple Rain” or “Supercar Yellow”?

“Kilo White” anyone??

So wait, now I’m talking about selling colored plastic. In that case what’s the difference between my plan and what the Retro VGS team was doing in their IndieGoGo pitch? The difference is we’re having fun. People will pay for the privilege to be a part of something fun. Do you think Potato Salad became a viral hit because it tapped into a tuber loving silent majority? No! It was an absurd idea that worked because it was a funny pitch and people were eager to be a part of something fun. It also deflects criticism. For those who call out their absurdity the answer is clear- “You just don’t get it. We’re having fun!”

Its Own Identity
The Coleco Chameleon cannot survive with a traditional sales pitch. Despite Mike’s early promises, the best he could ever hope to deliver is “just another Ouya” but at a greater expense with fewer games. His console needs to excite and entertain its audience, and unfortunately that’s something that the Chameleon team inadvertently excels at for all the wrong reasons. Are my recommendations absurd? Absolutely! But the Coleco Chameleon is an absurd idea in itself and if they want their support to go viral they can’t hide or ignore that aspect, they have to own it.

Guest Contributor

Nico Nillo is a reclusive shut-in and his YouTube channel is his window to the world where he can be found obsessing over the minutiae of retro gaming, Chinese crapware and other matters that no one his age should ever have strong feelings about. You can also find him on Twitter @stopdropretro.

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