Something to look forward to: In today’s world of smartphones and the Nintendo Switch, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile gaming. But next year will see a new device enter the market, one that should appeal to those who fondly remember simpler handhelds that emphasised gameplay over graphics.
Measuring just 74mm × 76mm × 9mm and sporting a 2.7-inch black and white display, the bright yellow Playdate is the work of Panic, which makes web development apps for smartphones and publishes games such as Firewatch and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game.
As you can see in the photos, Playdate features a d-pad and two buttons, but the most noticeable part of the device is the crank that’s attached to the side. It’s used as a control option for the games, which is certainly innovative.
No word on the internal specs yet, but we do know it features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, a rechargeable battery, a custom OS, and a headphone jack. That reflective screen, meanwhile, has no backlight, but the Sharp-made 400 x 240 low-power LCD is described as “extremely sharp and clear” with no grid lines or blurring. The company says it looks gorgeous in bright sunlight because it’s highly reflecting. “It sounds odd to say, but: it’s truly a ‘premium’ black-and-white screen,” said Panic.
Another unique element of Playdate is the way users receive games. The handheld costs $149, and with that you get a ‘season’ of titles. Buyers get access to a single game when they first turn on the device, with a new one being pushed out every week for the next 12 weeks.
The only game announced so far is called Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, which comes from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. The gameplay consists of using the crank to control the flow of time backward and forwards. Other Playdate games come from Zach Gage (Typeshift), Bennett Foddy (QWOP) and Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket). Playdate says that "some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional. All are fun."
Playdate is set to ship in early 2020 and cost $149, with preorders expected to start later this year.