I Hope We Don’t Get RSI From Crankin’ It (the Playdate)

Panic’s new console

Renowned Mac and iOS software developer, Panic published their first game Firewatch with Campo Santo a few years ago, are expecting to release Untitled Goose Game later this year, and have now teamed up with the teens that figured out how to monetize themselves in pursuit of wacky audio equipment at Teenage Engineering to make a portable game console called the Playdate.

The Playdate is a bizarre device. There’s a black and white 400×240 screen without a backlight, Panic promises that screen will be perfectly clear during the day and that a reading lamp will be fine at night. I have a question out to them about glare.

The button layout looks normal up until you see that crank on the right side. The crank can tuck away inside the body of the unit for games that don’t need it. The Playdate downloads new games over WiFi. There is Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack as well.

Playdate’s games promise to be real odd ducks, the current list of announced designers are Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, GIRP), Shaun Inman (Retro Game Crunch), Zach Gage (FlipFlop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess) with more to come. Their 12 games are to be released at no other cost over the course of 12 weeks, once a week from the date a player first turns on their Playdate. There will be an option to skip the wait if you fire one up late in the “first season” of games.

Here’s how Panic describes a Keita Takahashi game for the system:

Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Keita Takahashi, the creator of Namco’s Katamari Damacy. This game uses the crank exclusively to control the flow of time, backwards and forwards. Your goal? Get Crankin’ to his date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles — obstacles that aren’t affected by the time control. Will Crankin’ make it to his rendezvous on-time? (Spoiler alert: no)

The name is supposed to make us think of setting up a time for kids to get together, but this Playdate console doesn’t have a firm release date yet or any announcement regarding multiplayer, just “Early 2020” with Panic hoping to have pre-ordering available at the end of 2019 and an e-mail waitlist that is supposed to act as a queue for the $150 handheld. The promise is that there will be a limited number of the consoles available at launch, which isn’t great since it probably means you need to pre-order this thing without knowing much about the yet-to-be-released games. Pre-orders are not necessary for anything that is produced at any scale, and it isn’t clear if Panic and Teenage Engineering are small enough to require them.

Panic promises to let us know about future game releases, and more specifications about the hardware (storage capacity, CPU, RAM) closer to the launch of the Playdate. It is not at all clear if you’ll be able to just download rando games that anyone makes, or if this thing tanks you’ll just be stuck with the single season of 12 games that Panic commissioned.