Playdate Handheld Pre-Order Date, Price And Free Games

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Playdate Handheld

Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game publisher Panic today revealed an update on Playdate, the cute small handheld with a crank it first announced back in 2019.

Playdate pre-orders will open in July at a price of $179. And while a specific date wasn’t revealed as of yet, Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser agreed to provide a heads-up a week in advance for people interested in getting one as soon as possible.

Sasser also said that Panic doesn’t expect to “sell out” of Playdates, but rather continue taking orders and shipping out units as they receive them from the factory. This strategy seems in stark contrast to that of fighting retro handheld developer Analogue Inc., whose Analogue Pocket system sold out almost immediately in 2020 with no sign of future restocks, leading to fan disappointment.

“The sooner you order, the sooner you’ll get yours, but we’re not going to close the door on you,” Sasser added. “If we sell way more Playdates than we planned, given how constrained parts are right now due to covid-19, it might take a while for you to get your Playdate. We’ll be working constantly with the factory to adjust for demand and we’ll be talking to you every step of the way.”

Panic also announced the Playdate Stereo Dock. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: a Playdate charging dock that also doubles as a Bluetooth stereo speaker. Oh, and it has a pen holder, making it a neat addition to your work desk. It even comes with a pen in case you’re running low on silly physical writing instruments. Score!

As for what you’ll be playing, Panic has doubled the number of games included with every Playdate purchase. Every week for 12 weeks, Playdate owners will get two new games as part of the handheld’s season one offerings. That amounts to 24 free games, some from notable developers like Keita Takahashi (Katamari DamacyWattam), Bennett Foddy (QWOPGetting Over It with Bennett Foddy), and Zach Gage (Ridiculous FishingCard of Darkness).

Panic also revealed a partnership with narrative development company Sweet Baby Inc. to “guide and develop” two teams made up of creators from marginalized communities. The initial project to spawn from this initiative is Lost Your Marbles, a visual novel where decisions are made via rolling marble puzzles. Lost Your Marbles will ultimately find its way to Playdate as part of season one, with extra Sweet Baby games like Recommendation Dog and Reel Steal coming sometime in the future.

Lucas Pope, the creative mind behind games like Papers, Please, and Return of the Obra Dinn, is also developing for Playdate. His next game, Mars After Midnight, is still in the early days but clearly benefits from Pope’s previous work creating incredible experiences with limited graphics.

“This thing is a lot of fun to work with,” Pope explained during today’s Playdate update. “The perfect place, I thought, to make something that my kids might like. Less death, more laughs, basically. It’s not much and I can’t say I know what I’m doing, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Aspiring game devs will be able to make their own Playdate projects with a new browser-based development app known as Pulp. More details will be released in the future but so far it looks like a really great way to make simple Playdate games with limited technical expertise.

All in all, the Playdate, with its colorful design and monochrome Game Boy vibes, continues to look like an interesting little gadget that harks back to the halcyon days of handheld gaming. The games look gorgeous, but there’s still a very small indication of how they will play or how long they should keep someone’s attention with so many other diversions readily available. Still, the pedigree is there, and it may just be quirky and easy enough to bring projects from new and underserved developers.

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