What fits in your pocket, can be cranked, and is fun to play with? Get your mind out of the gutter—the correct answer is Playdate, a new handheld gaming system from Panic, an Oregon-based software and video game company that has mostly focused on apps for macOS and iOS (it also published Firewatch, an adventure game that was released on several different platforms).
The handheld gaming console market is dominated by Nintendo, and the Playdate sort of resembles a fresh take on the Gameboy, but with a unique twist. There is a crank on the side. Yes, an actual crank that users can grab hold of and, well, crank to their heart’s content. For what purpose, you ask? It’s not to power the device, which is the obvious first guess.
No, the crank is an actual game mechanic. “It’s a flip-out rotational controller that puts a fresh spin on fun,” Playdate says, adding that “some games use it exclusively, some use it with the D-pad, and some not at all.”
Playdate didn’t come up with the idea of the crank. The company says it “didn’t know beans about mechanical engineering or industrial designs,” so it reached out to Teenage Engineering, which did come up with the idea. Playdate like it, and away they all went.
“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,” Playdate said.
This “thing” that Playdate created is bright yellow. It has a black and white display with a 400×240 resolution built by Sharp. According to Playdate, it works great in bright sunlight. It also sports the traditional D-pad, along with A and B buttons.
Playdate will cost $149 when it comes out, and includes a dozen games in “Season One.” They will be delivered on a weekly basis, rather than all 12 at once, at no additional charge. Other details, such as the hardware inside and amount of storage, have not been revealed.
That said, Playdate is promising “even more surprises to reveal when Playdate goes up for sale this year.” In the meantime, you can head over to Playdate’s website and leave your name and email to be notified when more information is available.