MacOS and iOS app developer Panic initially said in May 2019 its kooky-cool Playdate handheld game console would come out in early 2020. Last week it said preorders would start July 29 and, hey, that’s today. Preorders have started.
The original announcement got a lot of looks because of the gadget’s interesting, retro design. It looks like a child’s toy — in a cool way — with a yellow casing and a black-and-white display. But it packs some tech.
Panic’s design partner for the Playdate project is Teenage Engineering, which has previously built several iPhone-related accessories.
Small but potent, and it comes with a … crank?
— Playdate (@playdate) July 29, 2021
The little thing measures under three inches on each side. It has a headphone jack, a speaker, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB-C port. When you’re not using the screen to play games, it turns into a low-power clock, Panic said.
But the most interesting bit is the small hand crank that you can pull out of a recession on one side.
“Yes, the crank,” Panic said on the Playdate website. “Is it a gimmick? Nah. Does it charge Playdate’s battery? Nope. Is it really fun? Yes yes yes. It’s an analog controller that flips out from the side, allowing you to precisely dial in the action.”
Panic added that not every game uses the crank, but some do. It also mentioned that the screen is not backlit but “super-reflective — that looks way more amazing than you’re probably imagining.”
Playdate game console comes with free games
Once you have your Playdate console in your grubby little PB&J-stained hands, you can expect to receive two new games every week for a dozen weeks.
Panic said those 24 titles will vary in length and cover different genres. You can see basic information about many of the games on the Playdate site.
The developers also said more games will come out each “season.” That could mean a subscription service is planned, though there is no information yet on how it will work or what it will cost.
Or you can develop your own
Playdate said it will release its software development kit (SDK) so that device owners, or anyone, really, can develop their own Playdate games.
The company said it will also make its Pulp game maker available. It requires only a web browser to use. Playdate added that side-loading games directly onto the Playdate is simple to do.
Two accessories: cover and stereo dock/charger
Panic also announced two accessories to go along with the Playdate console. One is the Playdate Cover, a $29, magnet-based covering that protect’s the Playdate’s screen when you take it on the go.
The other accessory is the Playdate Stereo Dock. It’s a desktop Bluetooth speaker that also charges the console. The dock offers two spots for holding pens, including one that comes with it. Pricing and release date for the dock are not yet known.
If you’re interested in ordering a Playdate, preorders started on July 29.
Price: $179 for Playdate game console and the first 24 games; $29 for the Playdate Cover; Stereo Dock price TBD
Where to buy: Playdate
We first published this article on July 22 and updated it on July 29.