I’ve been using Panic’s software for many years now. I use Coda for a lot of my web development and Transmit as my main macOS FTP client. I really like both those applications.

I’d previously read about Panic’s diversions into gaming at the software level. They created an adventure game called Firewatch and are soon to release something called the Untitled Goose Game.

I was a bit shocked, though, to read they’re now creating a gaming console called Playdate, and it seems they’ve done so simply because they fancied a change.

It’s a handheld console that can be driven by a crank as well as the usual button and controller options. It has a black and white screen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, USB-C and a headphone jack. Panic even developed a brand new operating system for it.

Panic's Playdate handheld console.
Panic's Playdate handheld gaming console.
Credit: Panic.

It’s going to come with 12 free games developed by top game designers. You’ll get one a week for the for the first 12 weeks after you’ve received the console. Panic included a teaser for the first of these games in their press release:

Panic is revealing one of these original Playdate games: Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Keita Takahashi, the creator of Namco’s Katamari Damacy. This game uses the crank exclusively to control the flow of time, backwards and forwards. Your goal? Get Crankin’ to his date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles — obstacles that aren’t affected by the time control. Will Crankin’ make it to his rendezvous on-time?

Playdate will cost $149 (£120 or so) and it’s due to be released in early 2020.

It’s a brave and wacky move by Panic and I love that they’re doing this. I don’t very often play computer games these days and I’ve never owned a handheld gaming console in my life, but I’d give Playdate a go, not least because I applaud their sense of fun and adventure with this.

Panic partnered with a synth and speaker company called Teenage Engineering to come up with the design for Playdate. I had a browse of their site and I love the kit they produce despite not understanding the first thing about most of it. I’d really like to own their Pocket Operator Modular 400 even though I don’t know what such a thing actually is. Anything where you plug leads into slots on the fascia must be good. Their Play Anything, Anywhere OD-11 wireless speakers, which look like plant boxes or footstools, look interesting too. At least I know what they do.

Anyway, you can read a little more about Playdate via Panic’s press release, in which they reveal:

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.

I have no idea where this will go in the long-term but something about it has captured my imagination and I’d like to be part of the journey.