Panic's Playdate handheld console, held by a model.

Playdate is a new handheld gaming system, from Panic. Known for their Mac and iOS software, as well as for publishing Firewatch, this is an entirely new move—one that will hopefully offer exciting experiences for gamers.

The small, delightfully yellow console includes twelve games, released weekly. The games include titles from creators known for innovative games, such as QWOP and Katamari. It looks familiar—vaguely retro, even—but with the processing horsepower of a device made from this century. It has a “super modern,” highly reflective, black-and-white LCD screen. The LCD features no grid lines and will be sharper than Gameboy screens of yore. The hardware is a result of a collaborative partnership with Teenage Engineering, known for audio equipment, such as the iconic OP-1.

Two things, in particular, make Playdate stand out to me:

Seasons. One game comes out each week. The game-a-week for twelve weeks plan is an interesting conceit—you don’t know what’s coming next, but when the new game light flashes, your Playdate has a new experience to offer you.

The crank. It’s a little analog encoder on the side of the device. As Panic quips in their press release, “It’s literally revolutionary.” It represents the unique potential present in this platform—a crank has never been in gaming hardware like this.

The playdate hardware

Crank it up

The Playdate is banking on exciting gaming experiences in this encrankened handheld format.

The Playdate website currently features a gameplay video of Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, which looks to be an adorable puzzle game where you get Crankin’, a robot, to his date with Crankette on time. The trick? You use time travel to avoid obstacles which are unaffected by time travel.

Panic is further fulfilling the promise of great gaming on Playdate by announcing games from notable indie creators known for games with innovative mechanics: Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy), Zach Gage (Spelltower, Ridiculous Fishing, Really Bad Chess, Sage Solitaire), and Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket).

I’ve blown away hours of my life in Bennett Foddy’s QWOP, Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy was a significant highlight of my PS2 days, and Gage’s Pocket-Run Pool sits on the front page of my iPhone. I’ve played games from all of these creators, and I can’t wait to see what they do with this hardware.

Panic’s Past

For those of you that don’t know, Panic are longtime Mac and iOS developers; I use their apps, Transmit and Coda, to build The Missing Quests. Making software is their heritage, but they’ve suitably evolved into games publishers, and now are moving into games hardware.

In 2016, Panic published Firewatch, a narrative mystery game set in Wyoming. Playing as Henry, a new fire lookout retreating from your past, you develop a friendship with your supervisor, Delilah—via handheld radio—while you go about your job during a hot summer in the Shoshone National Forest. It’s easily one of my favorite narrative games.

Their next title, Untitled Goose Game, will be published later this year. You play as an especially mischievous goose, causing problems for a tiny town—such as stealing a radio, honking a diligently working farmer, and…having a picnic. It looks adorable—I’ve sent the trailer to friends multiple times.

With that experience, the Playdate seems like it’ll be fantastic.

This is gonna be cool, folks.

It may be too soon to say, because it’s not shipping for a bit, but I plan to post about every worthwhile game in Season One as they’re released. You’ll find all my Playdate posts in the Playdate tag here, or you can follow us at @missingquests.

The Playdate releases in early 2020 and will retail for $149.

I’m excited. This is going to be great.

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