Playdate, the Upcoming Handheld Game System from Publisher Panic, Has a Freaking Crank

The publisher behind games like Firewatch unveiled their unusual new handheld game system called Playdate, which arrives in early 2020.

By Chris Compendio

May 22, 2019

While the gaming community may be fixated on the super fast PlayStation 5 or Xbox whatever, publisher Panic appears to have a much different vision for new video game hardware. “Playdate” is a brand-new handheld video game console from the publisher behind Firewatch and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game, although I wouldn’t exactly call it a competitor. For one, it has a darn crank as a control option.

It comes across as a modern-day Game Boy to me—it has an LCD black and white screen, a d-pad, and two face buttons, for a start. But it has a neat, sleek design, wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities, and software support from some prominent names in the games industry. The official website namedrops Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Bennett Foddy (QWOP), along with Zach Gage (SpellTower) and Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket). Playdate will have a “season” of twelve new video games, with a new one coming every week.

These games will vary, some being long, some being short, some being traditional, and some being experimental. Some will take advantage of the crank, which design partner Teenage Engineering made to “break people of their touch [screen and controls] psychosis,” such as Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure—titled might even have the crank as an exclusive method for control. On the other hand, some games might not even use the crank at all. The core team behind Playdate at Panic consists of “roughly five people,” who used a fully featured Mac-based SDK and simulator in development. Games can be written using Lua or C, according to an FAQ.

Honestly, this thing kind of looks adorable. I’m not sure which audience exactly this is for, and in a world where we suffer from short attention spans and too much media to consume, I’m worried that there won’t be that great an interest for it. But damn, that crank looks fun to use. It looks comfortable to hold and look at, and I wouldn’t mind owning one myself, the more I look at.

Playdate won’t release until early 2020 though, and while it isn’t expensive, it isn’t exactly cheap, going for $149 USD. In the meantime, Panic has a mailing list that potential customers can subscribe to for more upcoming information. Campo Santo’s Firewatch, published by Panic, was recently released on Nintendo Switch.

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Chris Compendio

Chris is a writer currently based in the Philadelphia area. They are currently writing for film website Flixist, podcasting for Marvel News Desk, and were an editorial intern for Paste Magazine's gaming section. They graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a creative writing major.

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