Playdate: The Indie World’s Newest Handheld Gaming Creation

The gaming industry has never been more popular.

Indeed, check out this statistic:

64% of the general population of America now consider themselves gamers. Clearly, that’s a hell of a lot of people gaming away on a daily basis.

Now, what do you imagine when you think of games consoles in 2019? Xbox? PlayStation? Virtual reality? Fancy computers that look incredible and cost an arm and a leg? Headsets, microphones, online communities, insane graphics and state of the art technology?

What about tiny, bright yellow, handheld devices with a crank on the side and a black and white display? We’re guessing this wouldn’t even cross your mind.

However, that’s exactly what’s set to hit the market next year!

Playdate is the latest so-called ‘micro-console’ to try and break into the gaming industry. As you can tell, it’s a little bit different! And it’s causing a bit of a ruckus in the gaming blogosphere. Want to know what all the fuss is about?

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about Playdate.

The Developer

We have a software company called Panic to thank for the design and creation of Playdate.

These guys have been creating software for over two decades now. It seems like they got bored of doing the same thing for so long! Playdate is their attempt to mix things up a bit.

Now, they’re no stranger to making videogames. Indeed, they’ve experimented with a couple of releases over the last few years. However, they decided it was time to push the boat out even further.

Enter Playdate: their flagship handheld gaming console to enter the market. They can’t take all the credit though. Panic partnered with Teenage Engineering (a Swedish company in the consumer electronics industry) to get the design-juices rolling and the system up and running.

The ‘Why’

Okay, so, what’s going on?

What’s the ‘why’ behind Playdate? It can’t all be about spreading the reach of the company! Presumably Panic had additional reasons for developing their brand new tiny yellow contraption.

Well, apparently, they wanted to do something different for us- the consumer- too. Tired of traditional gaming options, they saw a gap in the market: for a fun, novel, distinctive approach to video-gaming. Panic decided to create an answer to the high-priced, tech-heavy console status-quo.

They wanted to lighten the mood with an atypical, stripped-back alternative.

They’ve certainly achieved all of that.

The Basic Features

Okay, that’s the background and premise of the console covered.

Let’s turn to what you can expect to see on the device itself.

Now, in line with their ‘why’, don’t expect any of the bells and whistles of Xbox and PlayStation. Think more along the lines of ‘Gameboy meets Nokia 3310’. With a crank on the side.

In fact, that should definitely be the first feature that gets a mention: the crank. We’ll talk about it in more detail later. But for now, it’s enough to know there’s a crank involved.

Yup…a crank.

You know those rechargeable torches you get? Where you pull out the handle and turn it for what feels like ages for a meager few seconds of power? It’s exactly like that. Except it doesn’t charge the console. Anyway, moving on…

The dimensions of Playdate are 74 x 76 x 9mm. You can see how teeny weeny it is! Its size makes it truly handheld. It will fit easily into a pocket when not in use.

The screen itself is 68mm (2.7inch) with a resolution of 400×240. It’s LCD, black-and-white, and has no background light.

Don’t be put off. The screen sounds basic but displays its graphics well. There’s no blurring or gridlines to be seen! Controls are just as straight-forward: two face buttons and a directional pad, with another button in the top right-hand corner. Oh, and there’s the crank too.

The Connectivity and Storage Capacity

Here’s where Playdate enters the 21st century!

It comes network-enabled, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as standard. The Wi-Fi is what’s used to download the new games (more on this later) to the device. That, for now, is where the use of internet in the console stops.

Panic has mentioned that network play is actually possible. It sounds like there is the potential to play against online competitors in head to head fashion. For now, though, the connectivity is limited to the downloading of new games.

In terms of storage capacity, Panic hasn’t provided specific details. All they’ve said is that there’s lots of it. Their exact phraseology for the amount of storage was ‘real beefy’. Details to come when Playdate is actually available for sale.   

The Crank

The crank is worth an extra special mention.

It has to be the first of its kind! The idea for it came from the Swedish partner company, Teenage Engineering. In practice, it’s a fold-out handle that slots into the console. In Panic’s own words, the crank is like an analog stick, to be turned as much or little as you like during gameplay.

But why? Why is there a crank?!

Again, Teenage Engineering is the one behind the answer. Apparently, they wanted to provide an alternative to the touch displays ubiquitous in society. Mobile phones, tablets, computers and so on are all touch-heavy. A crank is a manual answer to the so-called ‘touch psychosis’ it can lead to.

Instead of tapping, scrolling and sliding down a touch-screen, users crank themselves to success.

The Games

What of the games?

Panic is offering a new game every week for the first 12 weeks after purchase.

Referred to as a ‘season’ of games, you get to download the newest one whenever you’re ready. See the ‘game light’ flashing? You’re good to go. Each new game is a secret. Buying the device early means you’ll be first to play them.

The company teamed up with some renowned game-designers.

For instance, Keita Takahashi designed an original Playdate game called ‘Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure’. Indie-game lovers may enjoy it! Here, you manipulate the crank to move back and forward in time. You must avoid obstacles along the way to get your character, Crankin’, to his date on time.

The Unique Selling Point(s)

You can already tell how different Playdate is to other gaming options on the market.

It seems like gaming hipster heaven. It’s the middle finger to mainstream consoles; a minimalist, anarchic antidote to the high-end consoles that currently dominate the industry. You can just imagine thrift-store shirting, mustache-sporting, micro-brewery-frequenting individuals carrying one around in their pocket.

Playdate is cheap, cheerful, and altogether novel. It’s exactly the sort of device that acquires a cult following.

Sure, it isn’t the first micro-console to come to market. But it’s definitely filling a gap that others haven’t seen, or failed to see value in. Typically, companies have tried to offer a low-cost alternative that provides similar features to the top of the line consoles.

These consoles have followed the same device rationale, just at a lower price-point. However, they underestimated the willingness of consumers to pay the big bucks for the ‘real deal’.

Panic has taken an alternate route. They aren’t trying to be similar to mainstream options. In fact, they’re contravening the norm altogether.

Time will tell if it will succeed where others, like Ouya, have failed.

The Target Market

Interestingly, Panic don’t see Playdate as actual competition for home-consoles.

It’s just not what it’s been designed to do. Instead, the aim is to provide a novel alternative to your mobile phone, tablet and home console. Playdate is for the gamer who desperately wants something to do on the go, which doesn’t involve their phone.

In reality, this is another of its USPs. This is what distinguishes it from what’s already out there. This tiny yellow bundle of joy is intended as an addictive little time-filler. It’s something to play in idle moments to evoke a sense of light-hearted entertainment.  

The Price and Release Date

Playdate is set to come out next year, in 2020.

It’s set to retail at just USD $149.

Nicely, that price includes the first season of games we talked about earlier. Compare that to home consoles, where games are sold separately for large sums of money! Not only that, but you’ll receive the USB-C cable to recharge the battery as well.

Overall, it seems a good bargain for a fun, different bit of kit.

It’s Playdate Time

There you have it: everything you could ever need to know about Playdate.

Gaming is a big deal. Around the world, millions and millions of people hop onto their console of choice to play their favorite games. The popularity of gaming has soared in recent years. People of all ages, backgrounds, and creeds take part.

As we’ve seen, Playdate is set to be one of the latest consoles to come to market. However, it’s unlike any other device that’s already out there! It will be interesting to see exactly how gamers respond to it!

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