On Tuesday, Playdate, the portable, one-bit gaming system with an analog crank as a primary control option, took one more step toward being a bonafide thing you can buy.
The diminutive portable system’s creators at Panic (publishers of games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game) hosted their first-ever Playdate Update video today (embedded below) and confirmed that the hardware will launch to paying customers “later this year,” with preorders beginning “in July,” starting at $179.
That price will include the system’s complete “first season” of Playdate-exclusive games, and Panic had originally pledged to include 12 games in all with the purchase price. Today’s presentation included a welcome surprise: double the included games. Now, Playdate owners can expect to get two games a week as free downloads over a span of 12 weeks (which, if my calculator is correct, means 24 games in all).
Panic remains committed to its plan to “surprise” system owners with free downloads of entirely new games, so today’s video didn’t include lengthy game reveals. In the meantime, we’ve been given 21 of the Season One games’ titles, along with a list of participating developers (embedded at the article’s end). The indie-heavy developer list includes Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Nels Anderson (Firewatch), Giles Goddard (1080 Snowboarding), Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It), and Zach Gage (Spelltower), along with tons of lesser-known devs whose work has impressed us over the years.
Preorder assurances, accessories, free online dev tools
Today’s news is careful to clarify that “there will be at least a week’s warning” before Playdate preorders begin in July, along with other assurances about trying to make the ordering process a “pleasant” experience. “Surely, something will go wrong,” Panic’s Cabel Sasser said, “so thanks in advance for your patience with whatever that thing is.” (This is clearly a reference to various hellish product sellouts over the past year-plus, particularly the retro-minded portable console Analogue Pocket.)
Preorders will include add-on options for two accessories that are as boldly colored and designed as Playdate itself: a folding, Gamecube-purple cover ($29.99 as a standalone purchase or $20 as bundled with hardware) and a stereo-speaker attachment, which Playdate slots into so that it resembles an ’80s-style alarm clock. This “stereo dock” doesn’t have a price yet, but it will ship with a preinstalled online radio option, dubbed Poolsuite FM, that Panic says will include “expertly curated Soundcloud playlists that will transport you to a magical, sun-kissed musical zone between the past and the present.” (Or just connect it via Bluetooth to your phone if you’d rather curate your own hipster jam sesh.)
The hardware’s future may very well live beyond an included Season One of games, as Panic announced a list of supporting developers (including Lucas Pope of Papers, Please fame) and a plan to let them sell their games independently for the sake of sideloading onto the hardware. Panic wasn’t ready to announce its own integrated storefront but hinted that such a shop could come “at a later date.”
And if you’d like to join the Playdate development fray, Panic will make that easy for you with Pulp, a Playdate dev kit that works entirely via your web browser. Panic said that this toolset, which includes tools for coding, graphics, and music, will go live for free at an undetermined date. The above gallery includes a hint of how the tools will look in action.
We’ve previously written at length about where Playdate may land as a device and that we appreciate how it does not resemble market failures like the Ouya. You may not be a fan of Playdate’s intentionally limited processing power, monochrome palette, 2.7-inch 400×240 resolution panel, or analog crank (which apparently will not be used in all of Playdate’s games). But in an era full of GPU-buying panic and next-gen console sellouts, there’s certainly something to be said about Playdate’s unique approach.
As soon as Panic lets us go crank-on with a Playdate of our own, we’ll return to tell you whether the portable system lives up to its very weird promise.
Playdate’s announced “Season One” game/developer list
● Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, developed by uvula (Keita Takahashi, Ryan Mohler), Matthew Grimm, and Shaun Inman
● Battleship Godios, developed by TPM.CO SOFT WORKS
● Boogie Loops, developed by May-Li Khoe and Andy Matuschak
● Casual Birder, developed by Diego Garcia; music/sound by Max Coburn
● DemonQuest 85, developed by Alex Ashby, Lawrence Bishop, Duncan Fyfe, Belinda Leung, and Jared Emerson-Johnson
● Echoic Memory, developed by Samantha Kalman, Everest Pipkin, Carol Mertz, and Rachelle Viola
● Executive Golf DX, developed by davemakes
● Flipper Lifter, developed by Serenity Forge
● Forrest Byrnes: Up in Smoke, developed by Nels Anderson and Christina “castpixel” Neofotistou
● Hyper Meteor, developed by Vertex Pop
● Lost Your Marbles, developed by Sweet Baby Inc. & Friends
● Omaze, developed by Gregory Kogos.
● Pick Pack Pup, developed by Nic Magnier and Arthur Hamer; music by Logan Gabriel
● Questy Chess, developed by Dadako
● Ratcheteer, developed by Shaun Inman, Matthew Grimm, and Charlie Davis
● Sasquatchers, developed by Chuck Jordan; music/sound by Jared Emerson-Johnson
● Snak, developed by Zach Gage; art by Neven Mrgan
● Spellcorked!, developed by Jada Gibbs, Nick Splendorr, Ryan Splendorr, and Tony Ghostbrite; music by A Shell in the Pit (Em Halberstadt)
● Zipper, developed by Bennett Foddy
● Saturday Edition, developed by Chris Makris; music by A Shell in the Pit (Gord McGladdery, Alfonso Salinas)
● Whitewater Wipeout, developed by Chuhai Labs
Listing image by Panic