Meet Playdate: The Cranky New Portable Game System

Panic moves from publishing to handheld console development with the new Playdate console and its unique control system.

Panic moves from publishing to handheld console development with the new Playdate console and its unique control system.

Games publisher Panic, known especially for its work with Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game, recently announced its latest effort: a portable game system called Playdate.

It’s small, it’s yellow, the screen is black and white, and it only has a D-Pad and 2 buttons. Oh, and a hand crank. The crank isn’t how you power the machine, though; it’s actually a special type of analog stick.

Panic describes Playdate as the company’s celebration of video games, an expression of the joy and excitement games have provided the team members over the years. To that end, Panic is working with some notable developers responsible for some of the more unique titles in gaming, including Katamari Damacy developer Keita Takahashi and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy‘s Bennett Foddy.

Playdate will cost $149 at launch and include 12 games. Panic says each game is a secret (well, sort of, since they also shared the below image on their Twitter page), with one game per week delivered to the console.

Panic gave a few words about the reason for the delivery method as well:

We’d like to keep them a secret until they appear on your Playdate. We want to surprise you. Some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional. All are fun…

There will be more games to follow as well, with the Playdate website describing the first 12 games as part of Season One.

As for the crank, Panic said it’ll function as a special controller for certain games, but it isn’t required for all. In that sense, it’s rather like touchscreen functionality or HD Rumble, where utilizing it just depends on the developer’s priorities.

For example, Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, which can be seen on the Playdate website, uses the crank as its core mechanic, where others won’t use it at all

Currently, Playdate is set for a 2020 release, and Panic encourages interested parties to sign up for updates soon, as stock will be limited. The mailing list sign-up form is also on Playdate’s website.

Playdate is yet another sign that the games industry continues to evolve and diversify. With retro streaming platforms like Antstream on the way, the growing number of classic consoles and industry newcomers, studios developed just for video game movies, and former rivals merging services, it’s certainly an interesting time to be a gamer.

About the author

Josh Broadwell

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.