Playdate is a funky mini gaming handheld slated for 2020


With games from some celebrated designers

It’s not every day we see a brand new handheld video game console, much less one as funky-looking and curiosity-stoking as Playdate. Just look at this thing! It’s such a cutie. And it has a functional crank that folds out from its side. And – what’s that? – it’s recruiting beloved designers like Katamari Damacy‘s Keita Takahashi and QWOP‘s Bennett Foddy to contribute exclusive new games.

Playdate size and scale

At first glance, you might think the crank is used to power the console, but no, it’s a control method. “Some games use the crank exclusively (like Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, above.) Some don’t use it at all. But it’s very fun. Extremely fun.” Playdate is the work of Teenage Engineering and Panic, a company that’s recently popped up to publish Firewatch and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game.

“For over 20 years Panic has mostly made Mac and iOS software,” said the team. “Twenty years is a long time, and we wanted to try some new things. To make the most of what we have.”

As if the hardware side of Playdate didn’t have enough going on already, there’s the peculiar distribution model. In another unconventional twist, the system’s game lineup will roll out to players on a seasonal basis. There are a dozen titles planned for Season One, though most are being kept under wraps.

“Some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional,” according to Panic. “When your Playdate lights up with a brand new game delivery, we hope you can’t wait to unwrap your gift.”

Playdate games list

What about the price? $149 (with the games). On that note, “Stock will be very limited.” Playdate ships in early 2020 and it’s advised that would-be owners sign up for the mailing list before it’s too late.

The timing on this news is amusing, what with the Ouya – another curious little console closing up shop soon. But unlike the Ouya, the purpose and scope of Playdate seem better defined. The handheld isn’t promising the world to potential customers, just a bit of quirky fun. I doubt I’ll get one, but I understand its appeal as a game-culture thing. Now we need to see how the software turns out.

Whether this ends up a novelty collector item or something more profound, I dig that they really went for it. To see more specifics about Playdate’s impetus and the tech specs, consult this FAQ.

Hello. We made a brand new handheld gaming system. [Playdate]