Sometimes Less Is More
The Coolest New Game Console Has a Tiny Screen … And a Crank?!
The PlayStation 5 and next-generation Xbox are on the horizon, promising a mountain of graphics horsepower to compete with burly gaming PCs. But arguably more exciting than anything they could deliver is a slick little yellow handheld with two buttons, a black-and-white screen, and a crank. It’s called Playdate and it’s coming in 2020 for $149.
The Playdate looks reminiscent of an original Game Boy, but packs modern innards and features like a USB-C port for charging, a headphone jack for audio, and a Wi-Fi radio for internet. That last part is important because over the course of “Season One,” the Playdate will be updated with a series of 12 exclusive titles, designed by the likes of Keita Takahashi, the mind behind the weird and wonderful Katamari Damacy. The first (and only) game to be announced in advance is his Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, which uses the console’s crank as its only controller. The rest of the games will arrive as a surprise once a week throughout the console’s first season, specially condesigned to suit the console’s unique controls and its tiny 2.7-inch 400×240 monochrome LCD display. Whether or not there’s another second season afterwards, the makers say, depends on sales.
Playdate isn’t from an established gaming hardware company, but it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. It’s the brainchild of software company Panic, which has historically produced software for iPhones and Macs, and recently published the game Firewatch. The physical console itself was designed in part with Teenage Engineering, a Swedish company known primarily for its painfully hip synths.
Playdate is scheduled to ship in early 2020, but preorders won’t open until later this year. You can sign up for Playdate’s newsletter or follow its Twitter for information on exactly when they do, just be sure to keep a close eye, because supplies will be very limited.