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Playdate update: Everything announced for Panic’s crank-powered handheld

The Playdate reemerges, cranking out a price, pre-order date and 24 new games.

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Playdate
Playdate

The Playdate reemerges, cranking out a price, pre-order date and 24 new games.

Today, publisher Panic held a Playdate Update, giving hopeful players the most in-depth look at the handheld since it graced the cover of Edge Magazine back in May 2019 (and caused a little bit of controversy shortly after).

If you missed the announcement a few years ago, the slim yellow console may come as quite a surprise. It’s a unique little thing, with throwback visuals and limited inputs reminiscent of the original Game Boy.

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The biggest difference? It has a crank.

Yep, in addition to a D-pad, plus A and B buttons, the Playdate comes with a crank built onto the side. Games can use it in all sorts of ways. In today’s update, we saw it used to control character movement, reel in a fish and open up a hatch.

So, when can you get your hands on one? We still don’t know. But, pre-orders open next month. Cabel Sasser, Panic’s co-founder, stated during the presentation that Panic would ship out Playdates as they become available. Though Panic has previously published games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game, this is the company’s first hardware product. Add in that we’re in the middle of a global parts shortage and that Panic is still unsure of the exact magnitude of demand and details are still a little hazy. But, you can cancel your pre-order at any time, for any reason.

Playdate

How much will it cost? This might be a bit of a sticking point. While the Playdate may seem like an impulse buy diversion, its $179 price tag suggests otherwise. For comparison, that’s $20 less than a Switch Lite.

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But, $179 gets buyers more than just the console. One of the unique things about Panic’s pitch is that the Playdate’s asking price includes a 12 week season pass for 24 games. So, you aren’t just paying for the hardware; you’re gaining access to a ton of software from well-known indie devs delivered to the console, via Wi-Fi, every week.

Panic showed quick glimpses of 21 of those games during the show today. Here’s that list, plus the names of the developers behind each game.

Playdate Games announced so far

  • Crankin Presents Time Travel Adventure, developed by uvula which includes Ryan Mohler and Katamai Damacy’s Keita Takahashi, plus Matthew Grimm and Shawn Inman.
  • Battleship Godios, TPM.CO SOFT WORKS
  • Boogie Loops, May-Li Khoe and Andy Matuschak
  • Casual Birder, Diego Garcia with music by Max Coburn
  • Demon Quest 85, Alex Ashby, Lawrence Bishop, Duncan Fyfe, Belinda Leung, Jared Emerson-Johnson
  • Echoic Memory, Samantha Kalman, Everest Pipkin, Carole Mertz, Rachelle Viola
  • Executive Golf DX, davemakes
  • Lipper Lifter, Serenity Forge
  • Forrest Byrnes: Up in Smoke, Nels Anderson, Christina “castpixel” Neofotistou
  • Hyper Meteor, Vertex Pop
  • Lost Your Marbles, Sweet Baby, Inc. & Friends
  • Omaze, Gregory Kogos
  • Pick Pack Pup, Nick Magnier, Arthur Hamer with music by Logan Gabriel
  • Questy Chess, Dadako
  • Ratcheteer, Shaun Inman, Matthew Grimm, Charlie Davis
  • Sasquatchers, Chuck Jordan with music and sound by Jared Emerson-Johnson
  • Snak, Zach Gage
  • Spellcorked, Jada Gibbs, Nick Splendorr, Ryan Splendorr, Tony Ghostbrite, A Shell in the Pit (Em Halberstadt)
  • Zipper, Bennett Foddy
  • Saturday Edition, Chris Makris and A Shell in the Pit (Gord McGladdery, Alfonso Salinas)
  • Whitewater Wipeout, Chuhai Labs

Whitewater Wipeout is a pack-in game that players will have access to immediately.

In addition to the 24 games included with the first season, Panic spoke a little bit about the future of games on the platform. The company will be partnering with Sweet Baby, Inc. for two additional games, Recommendation Dog!!, headed up by Hypnospace Outlaw’s Xalavier Nelson, and Reel Steal.

Lucas Pope, developer of Papers, Please and Return of the Obra Dinn, is also working on a game for the console. Pope’s game, Mars After Midnight, was my personal highlight. In it, players seem to take on the role of an anger management counselor for cyclopes. Using the crank, players can open a window to see a variety of imaginatively drawn aliens waiting behind the hatch. It’s hard to tell what the game will play like, beyond opening that window and using the D-pad to look around. But, the setting and character designs intrigued me.

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Playdate - Mars after Midnight

The Playdate Update showed off several other games, though it’s unclear when they will release. These include: Widget Satchel II: Return of Sprocke, Oxy Con Brio, Daily Driver, Date of Life, Faraway Fairway, Getting There, Robot Fishing, Direct Drive, and Playmaker. Right now, it’s unclear how these games will be distributed, but Arisa Sudangnoi Johnsey, Playdate Developer Relations Lead, said, “We’ve got some great ideas there. Stay tuned.”

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Additionally, Panic announced the Playdate Stereo Dock which will play music via Bluetooth, charge the console and, most importantly, store pens. And, Panic is releasing Pulp, development software which aims to make it easy for anyone to make games for Playdate.

Playdate may have been out of the spotlight for a while, but this presentation was full of enough announcements to make up for it. We can’t wait to try this weird little console out for ourselves *fingers crossed* later this year.


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Andrew King is a journalist, critic, poet, stand-up comedian and museum caretaker living in Illinois.

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