What is it?
The Playdate is a handheld gaming system, that is small enough to fit in your pocket. It’s yellow, features a black and white screen, had a D-Pad, 2 action buttons. Oh, and a wind-up crank.
The crank doesn’t power the device – it’s a rotational gameplay input device! Like the paddle on the Atari VCS. But crank instead.
Each week, on a Monday, a new game will appear on your system, and according to Panic, “Some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional. All are fun.”
The games are selected using a launcher which displays 350 x 150 pixel artwork for the game. The artwork in the launcher can be animated and can transition into the games title screen.
The Playdate was announced in May 2019, but the team have been developing it since 2015.
Who’s behind it?
Mac users may be familiar with the company, Panic Inc., founded in 1997 by Cabel Sasser and Steven Frank (Sasser and Frank met on an Amiga BBS, when they were in high school and became firm friends.)
Until recently, it’s main output was productivity software for Apple Mac and iOS, such as Transmit (FTP software), Coda (web development software, soon to be relaunched as Nova), and Audion (MP3 player, which nearly became iTunes).
In 2016 the company published its first game: Firewatch (developed by Campo Santo). A version of a Playdate features in the game. Firewatch developer Jake Rodkin says “This is the fictional 1989 model, which is fat and AA battery-powered, and obviously before it had the crank. It also has the canonical 1980s Playdate logo by [Panic designer] Neven Mrgan on the back:”
The “1989” Playdate in Firewatch
Untitled Goose Game
This was followed up in 2019 with the publication of House House’s Untitled Goose Game. Honk!
Panic have partnered with Teenage Engineering for the design.
What else do we know?
There seems to be a (optional?) purple case which doubles as a screen protector.
When can we expect it?
Panic planned to ship in 2020, though due to the Coronavirus pandemic, on their Twitter page, they add, in parentheses, ‘hopefully’)
How much will it cost?
According to Panic, Playdate will cost $149, which includes the console, and all twelve games in season one.
- 2.7-inch monochrome Sharp Memory screen
- 400 × 240 resolution
- Headphone jack, speaker
- 16MB RAM
- 2 GB Flash Storage
- CPU:ARM based STMicroelectronics STM32F746NG
- Dimensions: 74mm × 76mm × 9mm
What games do we know about so far?
All the games are supposed to be secret. You won’t know what they are until they turn up on ‘Playdate day’, but here’s what have been announced.
- Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure (developed by Uvula)
- b360 (by Panic Inc. )
- Executive Golf DX
- Zipper (by Bennett Foddy)
- Snak (by Zach Gage)
- Sasquatchers (by Chuck Jordan)
Plus unlike pretty much every modern gaming device – anyone can develop games for the Playdate, and you can side-load games onto the system without riskily hacking it. Developers can use Playdate OS, a full-featured SDK supporting C and Lua development.
We’ll update this post as we learn more. Official website: play.date