In a time when video game consoles are becoming more powerful and more connected than ever and AAA games are massive, bloated endeavors, Untitled Goose Game publisher Panic decided to go back to basics with the now $199 Playdate: a minuscule yellow handheld about the size of a Post-it note with a non-backlit black-and-white screen and a fishing pole-style crank on one side in addition to a D-pad and three face buttons.
Its design looks like it could’ve easily fit into Nintendo’s or Sega’s hardware stable in the early aughts, with games that similarly reflect some of the most fun, experimental games of the day.
That’s fitting: early developers for the system are responsible for some of the most unique and indelible gaming experiences from that time, like Katamari Damacy and the ever-maddening QWOP. Its games are delivered in seasons (the first one’s free), but users can also sideload community-made games if they want to.
Apr 18, 2022
Portable gaming has always been a little, let’s say, different. While there have been some attempts at shrinking console gaming down into something that will fit in your hands, many of the best handheld experiences have been downright weird. Think of the Nintendo DS with its dual screens that helped inspire memorable games about walking dogs, doing surgery, and, well, whatever is going on in Electroplankton. There’s something about the smaller scale of these games that often invites creativity from developers.Read Article >
The Playdate, from first-time hardware maker Panic — best known for its Mac software and publishing games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game — takes this idea to the extreme. It’s a tiny yellow square, not much bigger than a credit card, with a black-and-white screen and a crank that juts out of its side. It looks like a Game Boy from a parallel world. And, much like with the DS and its contemporaries, those limitations and distinct features have inspired a library of games unlike anything I’ve ever played: everything from a strategy game about cryptid photography and a turn-based samurai adventure to a role-playing game where all you do is manage inventory.
Nov 21Make a date with your Playdate.
The folks over at Panic launched a shop for Playdate games at the beginning of the year, and — as of this month — it has now surpassed 100 titles. The November releases are as quirky as always, including a gigantic space yo-yo a game about serving root beer to bears. Check out the full list below.
Nov 8Spice up your Playdate with a new cover.
Panic showed off a great-looking “aqua” cover for its little yellow handheld console during Wednesday’s Playdate Update. During the show, the company revealed that another cover is on the way that will be available exclusively to people who subscribe to the Playdate email newsletter.
The purple cover that launched alongside the Playdate isn’t available right now, but it will “be back later,” Greg Maletic, director of special projects and Playdate at Panic, says in a statement to The Verge. “We have plenty of Aqua covers available, and we plan on having both available after the new year.”
Update November 8th, 3:37PM ET: Added statement from Panic.
Nov 6Back to the future of handheld gaming.
Listen along (use this link to get it in your podcast player of choice) as The Verge’s David Pierce discusses the current flood of portable gaming systems with Polygon editors Chris Plante and Russ Frushtick.
Yes, there’s plenty of focus on the portable gaming PC movement led by the Steam Deck, Rog Ally, and company, but there’s also consideration for the Switch and even your iPhone or Android device.
Jul 18Playdate now has an MP3 player.
Kicooya MP3 lets you play music right from Panic’s quirky yellow handheld. You can even replicate the old iPod-style music player or make your own! It’s one of a few titles that are now available on the Playdate Catalog — you can learn more about them in Playdate’s new video.
Jun 20Make your Playdate more productive.
Another batch of games and apps has hit the Playdate shop, including this pocket planner app that I tested out last year. There’s also a fidget app that has a bunch of strange alarm clocks. Exactly what the adorable handheld was meant for.
May 23A light-gun shooter on your crank-powered handheld.
The Playdate’s curated game shop, Catalog, is getting another update with four new titles. They include: Necrocrisis, a House of the Dead-style arcade shooter; a portrait-themed puzzler called Generations; the fantasy adventure Castle Helios; and an old-school puzzle game called Loopsy. You’ll be able to check them out right here when the shop updates later today.
Panic’s little yellow handheld has sold a lot more than anticipated. Today, the company confirmed that the Playdate has sold 53,000 units, more than double the initial production run of 20,000. However, a large number of those customers are still waiting to crank away: Panic says that it has shipped 27,000 of those orders, and “the team is hard at work on getting customers their Playdates, and fully expect to deliver all pre-orders by the end of this year.”Read Article >
In a statement, Playdate’s project lead Greg Maletic said, “When we started, we had no idea how big the audience would be for a weird product like this, but we told the factory: build 20,000. To have now sold more than 53,000 (and counting) is heartening. And this, at a time when parts shortages forced our delivery lead-times out as much as a year. As those lead-times shorten and Playdate delivery becomes more immediate, we’re looking forward to an even better year two.”
Apr 6You can now play Celeste on Playdate.
Well, Celeste Classic, but it’s a Playdate version of the game that eventually became the excellent indie hit Celeste. It’s an unofficial port, but I’ve really enjoyed the five or so levels I’ve played and I think it looks great on the Playdate’s black-and-white screen. And if you want to play the classic Celeste Classic on your computer, you can do that on Itch.io.Celeste Classic
Time is running out on preordering a Playdate with better pricing. Beginning tomorrow, Panic’s little yellow handheld will cost $199. The company announced last month that a price jump was coming on April 7th due to increased manufacturing costs, so now is your last chance to place a preorder for the current $179 price. This is actually the second price increase on the crank-equipped portable, as it initially went up from $149 to $179 before its initial launch.Read Article >
A preordered Playdate must be paid in full, with an estimated shipping date currently listed as late 2023 — though, you can cancel any time before it ships and get a full refund should you change your mind. The Playdate includes a season of 24 games with the purchase, and more quirky games are available on its Catalog storefront ranging from free to $15.
Playdate is announcing a suite of new games and a pricing update. The $179 USD handheld is going up by $20, effective April 7th, bumping the price to $199.Read Article >
According to Playdate’s website, the price increase is due to increased manufacturing costs. Makes sense since the price of just about everything (insulin, happily notwithstanding) is going up. Originally, the Playdate was announced at a $149 price point until parent company Panic increased the price to $179 while increasing the number of games players would get for free from 12 to 24, as well as the device’s storage capacity.
As part of a showcase event, Panic announced that Catalog, a game store for its Playdate handheld, would be launching today. The store is available both on the device and on the web and is described as a “boutique” storefront featuring “software curated by the team at Panic.” As part of the announcement, Panic also announced that the handheld is getting a $20 price bump and will cost $199 starting in April.Read Article >
It was — and still is — possible to sideload games purchased on platforms like Itch.io, but Catalog theoretically makes it easier to find the good stuff. At launch, Catalog has 16 titles, 11 of which are brand-new. Two of those games — Real Steal and Recommendation Dog!! — are being released as a free “bonus” to the season one collection that came bundled with every Playdate. Meanwhile, one of the device’s early hits, the charming real-time narrative Bloom, is getting a big update that adds a post-game story and a new “chill” mode.
Panic, the company behind the adorable Playdate handheld, is holding an event next week to share some updates on new games and the device’s upcoming storefront. The update — called Playdate Update — will be 13 minutes long and take place on March 7th at 12PM ET. The company says that it “will be focusing on some new games coming very soon to the handheld,” along with Catalog, an upcoming storefront for new releases.Read Article >
Playdate first started shipping handhelds last April (though not everywhere), and Panic says that more than 25,000 units have been shipped to date. At launch, the device came bundled with a season of games from notable developers like Zach Gage and Keita Takahashi, but Playdate owners could also sideload games released through platforms like Itch.io. Catalog is meant to be a way to make it easier to find and purchase new titles; it’s described as “Panic’s own curated, on-device and web browser storefront for Playdate software.” It’s not clear yet when it might be available.
When Panic first announced the Playdate in 2019, it became a curious object of speculation. What was this strange new device, and how would we get our hands on it?Read Article >
First impressions revealed a quirky new toy with equally eccentric retro-flavored games designed for its D-pad controls and signature feature, a foldable hand crank. With its tiny black-and-white screen and “seasonal” games from indie stars like Keita Takahashi (working with Ryan Mohler under the name “uvula”), Bennett Foddy, Dave Hoffman (davemakes), and Serenity Forge, the Playdate felt like a no-brainer purchase for so many reasons: novelty, nostalgia, creative experimentation, and a return to intimate explorations of fun and the sort of general goofballery that you just don’t get on major consoles. (The Playdate also allows sideloaded games, so devs can make games with the Playdate creation tool, Pulp, and sell them on itch.io.)
Dec 13, 2022Time to dust off your PlayDate.
The adorable PlayDate comes with a lot of cool titles built-in, but it also lets you sideload games and apps as well. And there are some very promising games coming soon including a WarioWare-style mini-game collection, an actual 3D racer, and somehow a game with FMV cutscenes. You could say that indie developers are really... cranking away. Check out this Twitter thread for the full details.
Jul 15, 2022
In yet another reminder of just how flexible Valve’s Steam Deck handheld gaming PC can be, an enterprising Redditor has gotten the Playdate Simulator running on their Steam Deck, as shared on Twitter by Valve designer Lawrence Yang.Read Article >
The Playdate, if you’re not familiar, is Panic’s tiny yellow handheld with a crank, but similar to the long reservation queue for the Steam Deck, Playdate preorders are backed up for months. If you place a Playdate preorder right now, it isn’t expected to ship until 2023. If you already have a Steam Deck and want to mess around with the Playdate’s old-school vibes, though, it looks like it’s possible to do that by installing the free Playdate Simulator.
Jun 30, 2022
The team at indie games studio RNG Party has always loved handheld gaming, particularly Nintendo’s quirky portable devices. So when they noticed a new handheld making waves on Twitter, one that looked a lot like a tiny yellow Game Boy, they knew they had to be a part of it. “With pretty much every major console maker now gone from this space, unless you count the Nintendo Switch, this kind of thing might only ever be possible for us once,” explains RNG’s Ben Busche. “And we didn’t want to miss out.”Read Article >
That device was the Playdate, a handheld from longtime Mac software developer Panic, which is defined both by its miniature stature and the crank sticking out of its side. It finally released earlier this year, and those who purchased one received access to a “season” of games; two new titles would be automatically downloaded every week for 12 weeks, and Panic managed to get notable developers like Keita Takahashi and Bennett Foddy on board. New Playdate owners are pretty set when it comes to new games, at least for a few months.
May 13, 2022
One of the best things about the Playdate, Panic’s quirky gaming handheld, is how it only really does one very specific thing: play video games. It’s not bogged down by other apps or features, so when you’re playing something like Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, it’s easy to stay focused on the game. It’s refreshing to have a device so single-mindedly focused on fun — which is why I found the idea of using the little yellow console as a personal organizer so intriguing. For the past week, I’ve been doing just that, and while it’s definitely not an option for everyone, much like the Playdate itself, it manages to be both simple and straightforward.Read Article >
First, a few notes for context. One, it’s important to know that I have yet to find a to-do list app I prefer over a paper notebook. I spent a good while testing out the likes of Evernote and Fantastical — once upon a time I used the RPG app Epic Win to track things — but they were always too fiddly to bother with. For the last few years, my process has been simple: near the end of each work day, I write down everything I have to do the next day so it’s ready for me when I log on in the morning. It’s basic and fast, and the act of writing things down has a tendency to help me remember them.
Apr 26, 2022
If you’ve managed to get your hands on a Playdate or have one on the way, you’re guaranteed a full “season” of 24 games delivered to your device over the span of 12 weeks. And there are some great ones included — check out my full Playdate review for a round-up of my favorites. But there’s also more to the device than just those games, thanks to sideloading. Playdate maker Panic has made it very easy to get games onto your device. You can check out the process here, but essentially, you just need to download a file — usually from somewhere like Itch.io — and then either load it onto your device via USB or load them wirelessly by adding them to your account on the Playdate website.Read Article >
It’s a pretty painless process, and there are already some interesting, weird, and fun experiences available to try out. Here are a few great games and apps to get you started.
Apr 26, 2022
Panic has just begun shipping the Playdate, its unusual new gaming handheld. Part of the Playdate’s appeal is its quirky hardware: in an era where new handhelds have glorious OLED screens or are powerful enough to play your library of Steam games, the Playdate is a tiny device that has a crank and can only display games in black and white. But the Playdate is also interesting because of its “season” release model for games.Read Article >
Everyone who purchases a Playdate will get access to a full season of 24 games, though you won’t be able to play all of them right away. Instead, you’ll get two games when you first set up the device, and after that, Panic will send you two new games on Mondays in an almost TV show-like release cadence.
Jan 20, 2022
Panic, the maker of the quirky Playdate handheld, has released a public beta of its Playdate Pulp in-browser game builder. The company describes it as “a friendly tool for making tiny but visually and narratively rich games for Playdate,” in its developer documentation.Read Article >
In the Pulp editor, you’ll be able to do things like make pixel graphics, build levels, write music, and even create custom fonts. As you’re working on your game, you can test it right in your browser, and when you’re ready, you can export your game as a .pdx file (a clever reference to Panic’s Portland roots) so you can load it onto a Playdate handheld. You don’t have to write any code to make a game in Pulp, but if you do want to try your hand at some coding, you can use the PulpScript scripting language.
Nov 11, 2021
Panic has delayed the first shipments of its Playdate handheld, which is kind of like a Game Boy but with a crank, to early 2022. The company said that initial units shipped with batteries that didn’t work as expected, forcing it to send the units back to Malaysia to get new batteries.Read Article >
Panic also said that it has been affected by the global chip shortage in a significant way. Additional supply of the Playdate’s current CPU won’t be available for two years, according to Panic. To get around that, Playdate units coming later in 2022 will have a revised main board that uses a more readily available CPU.