A Look At Playdate – The Retro-Inspired Indie Console


The pictures leave little doubt: Playdate might be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Hidden behind its bright yellow casing lies a quite tiny console; one that could easily fit in your pocket. A couple of buttons, a black and white screen, and a crank complete the little item. Why a crank, you ask? We’ll tell you in a couple of minutes.

Announced today by Panic – the veteran software developer that helped publish Campo Santo‘s Firewatch the Playdate hand-held console wants to be the company’s legacy.

We don’t know much about its features yet, but that won’t stop  us from speculating.  Will this project manage to survive the harsh competition? Can the Playdate really carve itself a place in the market? Let’s find out together!

Hardware and Specs

As we already mentioned, the specs and details for the Playdate are still firmly under wraps. The few paragraphs and the 3D images on the device’s website, however, already give us something to work with; which is what we’ll look at for this article.

According to the project’s designers, the Playdate will sport a tiny monochromatic display. We can’t be sure of its size yet but we expect something similar to modern smartphones in nature. The Game Boy-style control scheme also seems to have been picked with playability in mind and should make the console comfortable to use even on the road.

Playdate device interior

Of course, our analysis of this device wouldn’t be complete without talking about its characteristic crank. The oblong piece of metal that stick out of the Playdate‘s left side definitely attracted our attention. It has been described as a rotating analog controller that should give players a new way to interact with the games.

Finally, a look at the bottom part of the Playdate reveals a series of rather interesting ports. Among them appear what seems to be a headphone jack and some sort of data port; either a USB or a proprietary design that should allow us to charge and perhaps update the device when the time comes.

And The Games?

Naturally, the team behind the Playdate also spent a few words to discuss the titles that will come with the console. After all, the fate of the OUYA is still burned in everybody’s memory. And with the crowd-funded project shutting down for good in about a month, it’s only natural for Panic to plan ahead of time.

Once again, the only news we have come directly from the official website. According to it, the Playdate will feature 12 unique games developed specifically for it. The titles will be sent out periodically, although we’re not sure how they’re going to be delivered.

Looking back to the crank, it seems we’ll have to wait before we can fully understand the role of this quirky peripheral. Some of the Playdate‘s games will be designed entirely around it; other might only use it for short sessions or specific mechanics.

Price and Availability

While there’s no precise release window for the Playdate yet – the only info we have is an undisclosed date in 2020 – Panic has already published details regarding the system’s price. The console will cost about 150$, or your regional equivalent. This sum should include the device as well as all of the games we mentioned before.

As for its availability, Panic is planning to produce only a limited amount of units. We’ll probably never know the exact number but, if you are thinking about securing your own, you can already sign up for the project’s newsletter right here!


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