What is Playdate?
Playdate is a brand new handheld video game system that’s not quite like anything else.
What’s unique about it?
- The controls. Sure, it’s got the usual d-pad, A+B buttons, pause button,
etc. But it also has a crank — a rotational analog controller that flips out from the side and puts a new spin on games.
- The screen. It’s got a black and white screen, and it’s beautiful. It has no backlight, but it’s super reflective. It’s an aesthetic like no other.
- The season. Playdate is not just a platform, it’s a complete experience: brand new games, delivered over time, directly to the device.
Who is Panic?
Founded in 1999, Panic started making software exclusively for the Mac, including Audion, a now-discontinued pioneering MP3 player, Transmit, a file transfer client still going strong, and the brand-new Nova, a professional web development IDE.
Panic also publishes video games, starting with the incredible Firewatch from Campo Santo, Untitled Goose Game from House House, and, coming soon, Nour: Play with Your Food from Terrifying Jellyfish.
Why did Panic make Playdate?
There are two answers to this question.
The personal: because nothing’s surprising anymore and surprises are great! Panic saw an opportunity for something truly different in the world of video games. Something small-scale that could deliver a dose of fun and delight to video game players who have otherwise seen it all. Something that could fit nicely in-between “regular” gaming sessions. Something unexpected and beautiful, with a secret, surprise set of exclusive games written by amazing developers. Put simply: something that adds a little brightness to your life.
The professional: because we wanted to do something new. 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. We love creating things, and it was time for us to level up.
What is a “season of games”? How does that work?
The Playdate Season is a collection of secret games that are released to players over time — currently planned to be one game a week.
Playdate’s games have been created by some of today’s most exciting indie developers, some you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t.
The games will remain a surprise until magically delivered to your device.
What happens if I buy my Playdate in the middle of a season?
The plan is to have your season start the first time you power-up the device, but we’re still working out the details.
Will there be more seasons? Or a game store?
It all depends on interest and sales. But we hope so!
Do the games go away at the end of the season?
Nope. Once a game is downloaded to your device, you can play it at any time.
How much will Playdate cost?
US $149. That will include the Playdate device, a USB-C cable for recharging the device, and a season of games.
Where does Playdate fit into the market?
Playdate isn’t trying to compete with the other devices that we already play and love. It’s designed to be complementary. It’s designed to deliver a jolt of fun in-between the times you spend with your phone and your home console; something to fill the moments when you just want a game you can pick-up and play.
We think — hope — that there are enough people in the world for whom the spirit and joyousness of this device will resonate clearly and loudly.
When is Playdate shipping?
We should be taking orders and shipping in 2021.
What are Playdate’s dimensions?
Very small and thin: 74mm × 76mm × 9mm.
Since you're using an iPhone or iPad, just tap below to see Playdate in real life! (Make sure to flip to the 'AR" tab.)
What is the screen like?
We wanted Playdate to offer a distinctly different experience than the one you get from your phone or TV. That meant Playdate needed a different kind of display.
Playdate’s 2.7-inch (68mm) screen is a unique, black-and-white, low-power LCD from Sharp, with a resolution of 400 × 240. On the surface, it might be tempting to compare the screen to, say, the Game Boy. But Playdate’s display is quite different: it has no grid lines, no blurring, is extremely sharp and clear, and has much higher resolution. It sounds odd to say, but: it’s truly a “premium” black-and-white screen.
Is there a backlight?
No! Wild, right? In daylight, the reflective layer makes it look spectacular. At night, you can sit by a reading lamp and bask in how incredibly beautiful a modern, sharp, highly-reflective black-and-white LCD can look. It’s great.
Is Playdate network-enabled?
Playdate contains both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hardware, and Wi-Fi will be used to download games to Playdate. While it is possible to make games that offer head-to-head network play, our season will focus on single-player gaming.
What about the CPU? RAM? Storage?
The official answer is “real beefy.” We’ll discuss the specifications in more detail on launch.
What OS is Playdate running?
Playdate is running a custom OS designed by Panic.
What is the crank for? Does it power the device?
Think of the crank like an analog stick — but one you can turn endlessly. It tucks into the device nicely and adds a new element to Playdate games that can’t be found anywhere else. It does not charge the device.
Where did the idea for the crank come from?
Teenage Engineering, our design partners. Concerned about the prevalence of touch controls, I believe at one point they said, “we want to break people of their touch psychosis”.
Wait, who is Teenage Engineering?
Teenage Engineering is a Swedish consumer electronics company known for their innovative and inspirational musical instruments and inventive experiments. Beyond just designing the outside of Playdate, they have also helped us in innumerable ways and been a true collaborative partner, eager to help us bring this device to life.
In which countries will Playdate be available?
We’re still figuring this out.
How much do the games cost?
Nothing! Season One is included in the US $149 purchase price.
Are there any hardware accessories or add-ons?
Nothing to announce at this time.
How do you write Playdate games?
We have a fully featured SDK and simulator that allow game creators to easily develop and test their games. The Playdate Simulator will run on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
There are two ways to write games: using Lua, for ease of development, or using C, for games that need extra performance.
What happens after the season is complete?
We’ll have more to say about this when Playdate launches.
How many people worked on this?
Panic has 25 employees that will all make an impact on Playdate.
But the core team is roughly seven people. They crafted the idea, designed the electronics, wrote the operating system, created the SDK, built the Mac-based development simulator, designed and coded games, wrote documentation, supported developers, created factory test processes, and more.
Also, two consultants helped: one who did our later-stage electrical engineering, and another who did the mechanical engineering and offered invaluable manufacturing support.
Plus, of course, our friends at Teenage Engineering.
What were the biggest challenges?
Everything was new, and the scope of what we had to make was tremendous, beyond even what we expected. But we did things the classic slow-and-steady Panic way, and although it’s taken time, we’ve accomplished a lot.
How can I make games for it?
The SDK isn’t available to everyone just yet, but we plan to release it to the public, for free, in the future.
Head to the Playdate Developer page to sign up for the Playdate developer mailing list for updates
We’re looking for people of all backgrounds and abilities to make games for Playdate. You can be an accomplished expert or just getting started. And while our SDK currently requires Lua or C, we are working on new ways to make game making accessible to everyone. We don’t want anyone to feel hesitant — reach out and we’ll keep in touch.
Where do I buy Playdate?
Playdate will be available directly from us on the official Playdate website, https://play.date, in early 2021.
Follow us on Twitter @playdate and sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the Playdate homepage.