Playdate Handheld Gets Price, Pre-Order Date, And 24 Free Games

Playdate Handheld Gets Price, Pre-Order Date, And 24 Free Games

Illustration of article titled Playdate Handheld Gets Price, Pre-Order Date, and 24 Free Games

Image: Panic

Panic, publisher of Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game, provided today a fairly substantial update on Playdate, the cute little hand-cranked handheld computer first announced in 2019.

First things first: Playdate preorders open in July at a price of $ 179. And while no exact date has been provided, Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser has promised to provide a warning a week in advance to those interested in copying one as soon as possible.

Sasser also said that Panic did not intend to “sell” Playdates, but rather to continue taking orders and shipping units as they received them from the factory. This approach appears to contrast sharply with that of competing retro handheld developer Analogue Inc., whose Analogue Pocket system exhausted almost immediately last August with no indication of future restocking, which led to widespread fan disappointment. (Analogue has since committed to produce more Pockets.)

“The sooner you order, the sooner you will receive yours, but we’re not going to close the door on you,” Sasser added. “If we sell a lot more Playdates than expected, given how limited parts are currently due to covid-19, it might take you a while to get your Playdate. We will constantly work with the factory to adapt to demand and talk to you every step of the way.

Panic also announced the Playdate Stereo Dock. That’s pretty much what’s written on the box: a Playdate charging station that doubles as a stereo Bluetooth speaker. Oh, and it has a pen holder, which makes it a neat addition to your desk. It even comes with a pen in case you run out of silly physical writing instruments. Goal!

As for what you’ll be playing, Panic has doubled the number of games included with every Playdate purchase. Each week for 12 weeks, Playdate owners will receive two new games as part of the Handheld Season 1 offerings. That’s 24 free games, some from notable developers like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Wattam), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting over it with Bennett Foddy) and Zach Gage (Ridiculous fishing, Dark Map).

Panic also announced a partnership with narrative development company Sweet Baby Inc. to “guide and develop” two teams made up of creators from marginalized communities. The first project to emerge from this initiative is Lost Your Marbles, a visual novel where choices are made via rolling marble puzzles. Lost Your Marbles will eventually find its way to Playdate as part of the first season, with additional Sweet Baby games like Recommendation Dog (created by Xalavier Nelson Jr. of An airport for aliens currently run by dogs glory) and Reel Steal to come in the future.

Lucas Pope, the creative mind behind games like Papers please and The return of the Obra Dinn, is also developing for Playdate. His next match, March after midnight, is still in its infancy but obviously benefits from Pope’s earlier work creating fantastic experiences with limited graphics.

Mars After Midnight is still in the early stages of development, but already looks stunning.Gif: Lucas Pope

“This thing is a lot of fun to work with,” Pope explained during today’s Playdate update. The perfect place, I thought, to do something my kids might like. Less death, more laughter, basically. It’s not much and I can’t say I know what I’m doing, but we’ll see how it goes.

And finally, budding game developers will be able to create their own Playdate projects with a new browser-based developer app known as Pulp. More details are expected in the future, but so far it seems like a very practical way to make simple Playdate games with limited technical expertise.

Overall, the Playdate, with its colorful design and monochrome Game Boy vibes, continues to look like an intriguing little device reminiscent of the heyday of portable gaming. Games are beautiful, but there is still very little guidance on how they will play or how long they should hold someone’s attention with so many other distractions readily available. Still, the pedigree is there, and it can be quirky and accessible enough to attract projects from new and underserved developers. I can’t wait to see what Panic and his creative partners have to offer when Playdate is finally in our hands.


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