With so much attention focused on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, you might have forgotten about the Playdate. The pint-sized handheld, which has a monochrome screen and a tiny fold-out crank for controlling select games, is “hopefully” coming out this year, according to the official Playdate Twitter account. But what exactly will you be able to play? Well, creator Panic — a software developer and publisher of games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game — has teased a bunch of third-party titles on Twitter. There’s no guarantee that any of them will come out, but they’re a good indication of what the platform’s library will eventually look like.
Over 250 people around the world now have actual Playdates in-hand. They’re putting our tools and tech to the test, building the world’s first third-party Playdate games.— Playdate (@playdate) August 12, 2020
Want a peek?
Rebecca (@veubeke) is working on this gorgeous dungeon crawler. pic.twitter.com/orKYzel051
Some developers are working on classic dungeon crawlers, for instance, while others are experimenting with top-down puzzlers. Anton Klinger, a game maker and “guy studying computer science,” is tinkering with a version of Tetris that lets you shuffle fallen blocks around with the crank. The Playdate has a built-in accelerometer, too, which is allowing some developers to make creative games with tilt-based controls. Oh, and unsurprisingly, someone has managed to bring over Doom — and yes, you can turn the crank to fire the iconic chaingun. My personal favorite, though, is this driving game that lets you drift around by turning the crank.
Playdate stressed in the Twitter thread that “not all of these projects will ship.” It also promised to share an update “in the next few months” that will explain its production timeline, how to pre-order, and the 12 ‘Season One’ games that will come bundled with the device. The PlayDate might not have the power to compete with the Switch and other modern mobile hardware, but that’s also what we love about it. As Greg Maletic, Panic’s director of special projects told Engadget last year, the PlayDate is supposed to be a spiritual successor to Nintendo’s Game & Watch devices. Technologically limited, but in a way that forces developers to get creative.
If everything goes to plan, the Playdate should ship before Analogue’s Pocket handheld. That system — a modernized Game Boy that plays a variety of original game cartridges, including those made for Game Gear — was supposed to come out this year but pushed back to May 2021.