The Playdate Is Set To Shake Up The Handheld Console Market

The Playdate Is Set To Shake Up The Handheld Console Market
Image: Panic

Video game handhelds are currently having their time in the sun. Between the announcement of Valve’s Steam Deck, the still-increasing popularity of the Nintendo Switch, and the appearance of Panic’s funky-looking Playdate console, there’s plenty of excitement on the way. Of the new generation of handhelds, the Playdate is arguably the least known one — but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy.

Here’s everything we know about the handheld console so far, and why it includes a mini crank on the side.

What is the Panic Playdate?

Panic’s Playdate is a new handheld console designed to play exclusive black-and-white titles controlled by buttons and a crank. It sounds weird, right? But that’s the point. In a flooded market, new handheld consoles need something to stand out, and the Playdate has garnered a lot of attention because it’s intentionally strange.

The console itself is fairly small and can fit into the palm of your hand, so you can take it anywhere and check out all the goodies it has to offer in peace.

Alongside a 400 x 240 pixel display, the Playdate also rocks a directional button as well as traditional A and B buttons to control games.

So far we don’t know much about the console specifics, including how long the battery will last, but we can expect to hear more as it gets closer to release.

Why does the Playdate have a crank?

playdate console crank preorder australia
Image: Panic

The best way to answer this question is to propose another: why not?

According to Panic, they made the Playdate “just for fun” and everybody loves to push buttons, pull cranks and discover new surprises. We also love to see consoles do something different.

When playing games on the Playdate, the crank will help you move characters and interact with the game world, just like a traditional joystick. Really, it’s the same concept at work here — it just looks a little bit different on the Playdate.

What games are launching for the Playdate?

game playdate panic console
Image: PlayDate

The Playdate is a unique console because it operates on its own system and only plays custom-built games designed to take advantage of the console’s mini screen and crank controller.

The delivery method for these games is also quite different.

Panic has outlined that games will be released for the device in ‘seasons’, with two games launching each week on the console. Essentially, it’ll work a bit like Nintendo DS Download Play, with the console being able to download new games when connected to Wi-Fi.

While Panic was aiming to create a synchronised release schedule so everyone could play the same games at once, the nature of shipping in 2021 means some regions may get their consoles ahead of others and be able to start the weekly games earlier.

So far, a few of the games for the console have already been detailed. These include:

  • Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, where you guide a robot towards a date
  • Saturday Edition, a simple point-and-click adventure
  • Whitewater Wipeout, an arcade surfing game
  • Demon Quest ’85, a fun action-adventure story

You can also check out the full list of announced games and creators on the Playdate website.

Panic Playdate: Release Date

Preorders for the console opened on July 29, with the first batch of units from this lot expected to land in late 2021 (although a conservative estimate may be early 2022, given the current issues with shipping and manufacturing).

Orders placed from August onwards are more likely to be part of the next wave of shipping, estimated to begin in 2022.

How can I preorder a Playdate in Australia?

Unlike the Steam Deck, Australians can actually preorder the Playdate via the device’s website hub. All you need to do is add the device to your cart and check out, no fancy credit card or shipping workarounds needed.

Currently, the base device goes for $US179 ($242), with the Playdate and cover bundle going for $US199 ($270). You will need to pay shipping in addition to this.

It’s a fairly expensive console, particularly because it only runs unique games, but if you’re looking for something quirky and fun, this might be the ticket. We all need a bit more weirdness in our lives and it looks like the Playdate is set to deliver.