In a surprise announcement, indie developer and publisher Panic revealed their next project: a yellow handheld black and white gaming device called Playdate. Playdate is set to launch next year with a $149 price tag. Pre-orders should be available at the end of this year.
“After 20 years of making software, we wanted to grow our skills, push us out of our comfort zone, and take us on an adventure,” states the Panic FAQ. “We love creating things, and it was time for us to level up.”
Playdate includes several unique features, including a physical crank on the right-hand side. The crank can tuck into the device for easier storage. Once flipped out it can be used as an additional analog controller for games that support it.
The retro-style black and white 2.7-inch LCD screen lacks a backlight, which has become a standard feature in handheld gaming devices since the Game Boy Advance in the early 2000s. Panic is quick to differentiate the screen from the original Game Boy model with Playdate’s higher resolution and no blurring or grid lines.
The device is super tiny at 2.9″ x 2.9″ x 0.35″. But the most unique aspect of Playdate is its gaming library. Games will be purely digital and will arrive in seasonal packs. The first season is included in the $149 cost of the device and includes 12 games.
The 12 games will release gradually over time at a rate of one new game per week. Games can be downloaded onto the device and can remain in your library forever, and you can always download games that you missed earlier in a season. Games will not be announced or revealed ahead of time, emulating a sort of blind box purchase.
Panic mentions working with several prominent indie developers for its seasonal games, including Keita Takahashi, Bennett Foddy, Shaun Inman, and Zach Gage. Panic is currently soliciting developers to work with.
Future seasons, or an actual game store, “depends on interest and sales,” according to Panic’s official FAQ.
Technical specifications such as internal storage and CPU have not been announced. Playdate is running on a custom OS built by Panic. The crank was developed by Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering.
Playdate should ship in early 2020, with pre-orders available late 2019.