Back in 2019, Portland based-software developer and video game publisher Panic announced Playdate: a bright yellow handheld console with a D-pad, buttons, and a hand crank. Panic originally planned to release Playdate in 2020, but the COVID pandemic and a subsequent shutdown at their Malaysian factory pushed the console to a 2021 release date.
Finally on Tuesday morning, Panic released an update video for its new handheld console where developers discussed its first season of games, a new accessory, and a browser-based game-making software called Pulp. Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser announced the first Playdate accessory: “a quadruple threat” Bluetooth stereo dock that charges your console, includes a penholder, and can play a selection of summer songs from the new Playdate app Poolsuite FM.
While Playdate is a modern console–it includes Bluetooth, a headphone jack, Wi-Fi, and a USB-C charging port–it calls back to retro consoles like the Gameboy. For example, Playdate’s black-and-white visual display is similar to the Gameboys of yore. But unlike the Gameboy, Playdate’s screen will have no gridlines, no blurring, and a higher resolution at 400x240.
The update video also highlighted Panic’s work with a Black- and queer-owned narrative game development company, Sweet Baby Inc. During the update video, CEO of Sweet Baby Inc Kim Blair announced they had partnered with Panic to build two teams led by seasoned developers and staffed by first-time and marginalized developers. The teams are developing two games for the handheld (Reel Steal and Recommendation Dog!!).
In addition to showcasing 21 of season one’s 24 games—developed by the likes of Keita Takashi (Katamari Damacy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It), and Lucas Pope (Return of the Obra Dinn)—Panic also introduced Pulp, a web browser-based game developer. The tool is free for Playdate users and allows gamers to create graphics, music, sound effects, and includes a simple scripting language.
Season one is included in Playdate’s $179 purchase price, and Panic says information on later seasons will be announced when Playdate launches.
Playdate opens for pre-order in July. “The sooner you order, the sooner you’ll get yours, but we’re not going to close the door on you,” says Sasser. “That’s not to say something won’t go wrong in the process, so we thank you in advance for your patience in whatever that something is.”
Panic did not announce a specific date in July during the update video, but the publisher promised they would give a week’s warning before the pre-order date.