Playdate: A Very Retro Addition to Handheld Consoles will be Available in 2020

With gaming systems like Switch, Xbox and Playstation, is there a market for a retro gameboy-esque handheld syetem?

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Last Updated on April 17, 2022 by Mark P.

Do you ever miss your Gameboy? Not the newer models like the SP or the Advance, but your original, black and white screen Gameboy? Maybe not, since a lot of us younger gamers probably never owned one. Before our time, and all. But apparently someone thought it would be a good idea to evoke that old school feeling for a new handheld, and who knows: maybe it’ll really take off.

Software and game developer Panic is working on a new handheld console that is a very familiar bright yellow, along with a D-pad and the good old 1-2 combo of an A and B button. The screen is black and white, and it has a hand-crank for some reason, which is definitely a first. This device has been dubbed Playdate, and it is scheduled to release in early 2020 for a price of $149.99.

The way this device will receive games is quite strange. According to the developers, it will have ‘seasons’ in which games are delivered. Season one will be twelve weeks long, and will deliver one game a week to the device over the air. These many games will be developed and designed by individuals such as Keita Takahashi, Zach Gage, Bennett Foddy and Shaun Inman. Some of them will be short, others will be long, and they’ll vary from traditional to the experimental.

As for the hand crank, it’ll be an interesting twist and play a role in some mechanics for different games. One such game, revealed as Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, developed by Takahashi, will apparently use just the hand crank, which will be able to pop out of the side of the console. However, not all games will use it. The device will also have WiFi, Bluetooth, a USB-C port, and an audio jack.

According to Panic, the development process of this device took four years. The company went into some detail regarding the development cycle.

“Panic built every part of Playdate from scratch, starting with early board designs (using the hotplate in our kitchen to flow solder), our own Playdate OS, a full-featured SDK supporting C and Lua development, a Mac-based simulator and debugger, and more.”

Preorders for the handheld are expected to become available in 2019, though we of course have no news on exactly how many ‘seasons’ it will have, which means we don’t know how many games will be available for it either. Of course, it could depend on how successful the launch of the device is, and there’s no way of knowing how that will pan out ahead of time.

Either way, it is interesting to see a company that is trying to release a console of its own in this day and age. With the market mostly dominated by big name corporations putting out various iterations of the same console over and over again, it’s a mystery as to whether or not a new device from a developer like this will really take off.