Today, we got an in-depth look at Playdate, a new handheld gaming device from software developer and video game publisher Panic. Teaming up with Teenage Engineering, Panic has put together a familiar handheld gaming console with a couple of pretty significant twists.
The company was happy to announce that the Playdate will be available for preorder sometime in July for $179.
Panic’s Playdate aims to dial back the gaming experience a bit. It is a tiny device, and the graphics resemble the glory days of gaming with the original Game Boy. The Playdate is very similar to those old-school gaming consoles that we boomers know and love, but there is one big difference in the Playdate’s design.
The first thing you probably notice when you see the Playdate for the first time is the silver crank on the right side. Again, I know what we old people are thinking: that’s so you can charge the battery. Well, that’s not the case.
The crank on the side is actually a full-on analog control for games. The crank can be pulled out and spun around either way continuously. While not every game will utilize the crank, it is definitely an interesting control that developers and gamers alike should have a fun time playing with.
Continuing on with the unconventional aspects of the Playdate is the way that you actually get games. Unlike most retro handhelds, there is no cartridge for games. Instead, all games will be completely digital, and the way you get those games will keep the console fresh and exciting.
So what about those games?
Panic announced that it plans to have 24 games for the Playdate during Season 1, and they will all be free. That’s right, every Playdate owner will get all 24 Season 1 games for free with their purchase of the console. The games will come out two at a time over the course of a 12 week period, letting you experience each game as it becomes available.
The company announced the 21 of the 24 Season 1 games and gave us a nice sneak preview of a few. One of those games, Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, shows off the use of the crank as a way to control an extra flexible robot.
We also got an in-depth look at a title from popular 1-bit game developer Lucas Pope. Pope is known for classic titles like Return of the Obra Dinn, and is working on a new game for Playdate called Mars after Midnight.
The company also announced a couple of accessories that will be available soon for the Playdate. First is the Playdate cover, a foldable plastic cover to protect your screen when the console is not in use. The cover will be available for preorder in July for $29 or as a bundle with the console for $199.
The second accessory showcased was the Playdate Bluetooth speaker box that doubles as a wireless charger and triples as a pen holder. The Bluetooth speaker dock doesn’t have a release date yet, but it should be coming soon.
The company also announced Pulp, a way for people to easily develop games for the Playdate. Pulp is available through your web browser and simplifies the game development process, making it accessible to just about anyone.
The Playdate has been in development for a couple of years now, and it is exciting to finally see some significant progress. We don’t know exactly when the console will be available, but preorders start sometime in July. You can sign up to receive updates on the Playdate website to know exactly when preorders begin.
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