What Is Playdate? Price and Everything We Know

A new handheld gaming device called Playdate has taken the gaming world by storm. And now there's a real possibility it could become the next big thing in this year's gaming lineup.

Credit: Panic

(Image credit: Panic)

The Playdate stands out with its unique design, which features simple button controls and a crank to the side to help you control on-screen characters. Even more surprisingly in a world dominated by better and better visuals, the handheld employs basic black-and-white graphics.

But for all it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in interesting design, cool concepts, and the promise of truly unique gameplay experiences. Here's everything we know so far about what could be handheld gaming's next big thing.

What is the Panic Playdate?

Panic Playdate is a new handheld gaming device that imagines how we're going to play games in 2020. It comes with a distinct bright yellow finish and has a D-pad on the left to complement the familiar B and A action buttons to the right. There's another action button the top-right that will also be used in gameplay. That sits next to the front-firing speaker at the top of the device.

Arguably the most interesting design choice in the Playdate, which you can easily slip into a pocket, is the hand crank on the right that you can pull out and use to control on-screen characters. Panic, the company behind the device, said that some games will exclusively use the crank. Others, however, will use traditional controls with the D-pad and action buttons.

Aside from that, you'll find that the Playdate comes with a black-and-white screen instead of a color screen. It's an interesting design choice that will help to differentiate the device from alternatives.

What's the Playdate price and release date

Get ready to drop some cash on the Panic Playdate. Panic said that the device will cost $149 at launch.

Panic will release the Playdate in early 2020. The company said that it will make limited units available, however, so you'll want to keep a close eye on its progress and get ready to snag one quickly if demand exceeds supply. You can sign up to be notified about Playdate's launch on the company's website.

What's with the hand crank?

Believe it or not, there's a crank that powers the gameplay in the Playdate. You can flip it out from the side and rotate it to control on-screen characters. Based on how quickly you rotate the crank and the direction in which you crank it, the on-screen characters will respond accordingly.

According to Panic, some of the games in the works use the crank only to control characters. But other games won't use it at all.

What are the Playdate games?

Panic is keeping its game plans close to the vest. The company did say that the game it showed in the demo is called Crankin's Time Travel Adventure, but that's it.

Credit: Panic

(Image credit: Panic)

Ultimately, the Playdate will have 12 games made available to it around the time of launch. Panic said that some of the games "are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional." The company added, "all are fun."

Games will be delivered over the air to the Playdate. Panic anticipates releasing one game a week for 12 weeks. After that, it's unclear what will come of the games on Playdate.

Who is Panic?

Surprisingly, the Playdate isn't made by a traditional hardware maker, like Nintendo or Sony. Instead, it's made by Panic, a software developer that has been making software for Macs and Windows machines for the last two decades. The company is best known for publishing the popular 2016 adventure game Firewatch and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game.

The company said that it's wanted to build something that you could hold in your hand and decided to make a handheld game device. That's the Playdate.

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.