Today games publisher Panic (publisher of Firewatch) unveiled the Playdate: a new handheld game player that will come with 12 indie titles, released one by one each week. The new system was unveiled via Twitter thread and an official website for the product.
Panic still publishes games like the upcoming Untitled Goose Game, but it’s branching out and seems to be pretty excited about the foundation the company is building. According to the official description of the system, some of the upcoming games are being made by Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Zach Gage (SpellTower, TypeShift), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy), and Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket).
Panic won’t announce every game coming to the Playdate ahead of time. Instead the company will rely on surprising its users each week when each new product is ready to play. What kinds of games will the Playdate have, though?
“Some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional,” Panic said. “All are fun.”
According to the official images of the Playdate, the screen will be black and white with no backlight (which the company confirmed via a Twitter response). There is, however, a four-direction D-pad with A and B buttons on the face of the system. There’s also a small speaker to the right of the screen, below what appears to the be the power button. On the right of the system is a small crank that players can pull out and rotate.
We’ve worked on this for four years. We’ve learned so much — well, there was so much we didn’t know. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but little by little we created this thing. And today, we’re announcing it to the world, and shipping it in early 2020. pic.twitter.com/B5GwLAMxt0
— Playdate (@playdate) May 22, 2019
This crank does not power the device with some kind of built-in generator. Rather, it will act as another control point for certain games. Takahashi’s contribution to the Playdate, Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, uses the crank to move the central character around.
Panic says the system will ship in early 2020 and retail for $149 USD. The console includes what Panic calls “Season One,” which as far as we can tell will include the 12 aforementioned weekly games.
This is pretty cool! The slick yellow design stands out among the very workmanlike look of the all-black Nintendo Switch, as well as older Sony handhelds. And obviously including so many legendary indie developers is a big get. Though I wish a legendary woman had been among the announced participants. There are really a ton to choose from at this point.
At $149, this doesn’t exactly undercut the idea of buying a Playdate instead of a Switch. Instead, I’d probably frame it as paying $12.42 apiece for 12 (potentially) very good indie games. After which it could sit around as a really nice, subtle, but eye-catching piece of hardware. What will be interesting is to see how Panic prices — as well as releases — a potential “Season Two” of Playdate games. If this machine is successful, and the price continues to be right, I could see them creating an altogether new piece of hardware for new games. We’ll see!