Retro yet modern, with simple gameplay, the Playdate is sure to win over nostalgic gamers
In a world run by smartphones, with gaming apps available at the touch of a button, handheld game consoles seem like a somewhat prehistoric notion. The Nintendo Switch seems to be the last standing species of its kind – one which remains a cherished item for die-hard gamers. New to the gaming world, however, is a little yellow box called the Playdate.
The Playdate is a labour of love from a small American company, Panic. The company is primarily known for providing software for Apple’s iOS systems, but has recently branched out into the gaming arena. Over four years, a small team within the company worked on the Playdate, which is effectively the first device of its kind. The Playdate is also Panic’s first hardware product. All the device parts have been produced in-house, and according to the company, the production was so informal it involved using a hotplate in the company kitchen to flow solder.
The result is a bright yellow box that can easily fit in your pocket. The Playdate’s design takes point from the handheld consoles of yesteryear, such as the Nintendo Game Boy. The controls consist of a traditional directional pad and two buttons marked ‘A’ and ‘B’. Above that is the display, a basic 1-bit black-and-white monitor measuring around seven centimetres in diagonal length. It does not have any built-in backlighting – nostalgic or outdated? In the end, it’s the user’s opinion.
Despite the old-school facade, the console does sport some up-to-date features. It’s WiFi-enabled and has Bluetooth, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. The talking point of this device is certainly the miniature crank handle that juts out from the right-hand side. This quirky add-on puts an interesting little spin on traditional handheld gaming.
You can’t game without games to play and Panic is keeping its potential customers in suspense with a secret lineup. When the console becomes available, a new game will be released once every twelve weeks (giving gamers more than enough time to master the available options). At the moment, the only one we know much about is one called Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, a simple story-based game developed by Keita Takahashi.
Panic plans on distributing the Playdate in early 2020. It lists the price at $149 – not exactly cheap for a console of its size and advancement (especially when going up against conventional mobile gaming), but customers might be sold on its modernised-retro appeal and refreshing simplicity.