IT’S HIP TO BE SQUARE
A CLEVER NOD TO THE CLASSIC GAMEBOY, PLAYDATE’S RETRO FEATURE SET LOOKS LIKELY TO CRANK UP SOME SERIOUS EXCITEMENT AHEAD OF ITS SCHEDULED RELEASE NEXT YEAR
THESE days, it’s quite hard to be surprised by the goings on in the world of technology. Phones largely look the same, all the games consoles are treading water, and there’s not much to choose between the various smartwatches on the market.
So I raise a glass this week to the company that decided that what we really need is a new hand-held gaming platform that features, among some more traditional control methods, a pop-out crank.
You heard that right. A pop-out crank. That’s the best way I can describe it, and even I don’t really know what it means. So let’s dig a little deeper.
Creating a bigger storm in the tech world this week than a new iPod (see column, far right), was the Playdate – the brainchild of Oregon-based Mac and iOS software creators Panic, in collaboration with Swedish synthesiser magicians Teenage Engineering.
It’s a new hand-held gaming device, and it looks… unusual. It has a very simple 2.7in 400x240 pixel monochrome screen, a four-way d-pad, and two buttons. And the crank, of course.
At first I thought this might be to charge the device by hand, but no – it’s another controller. Some games for the device use nothing but the crank to control the gaming action, while some do not use it at all.
There’s a speaker as well, on this perfectly square bright yellow device, and not much else. It’s a retro homage to the Game Boy of yore, and yet it feels completely modern.
One of the most innovative features is the games – there are 12 of them (at first, at least), and they’re all included in the price, but they don’t all come with the game on day one.
They will be delivered wirelessly and automatically to the device at a rate of one per week over a period of 12 weeks.
And perhaps the most exciting element of the whole project is some of the developers who’ll be creating these 12 games – Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It), Keita Takahashi (Katamari Democracy), and Zach Gage
(SpellTower, Ridiculous Fishing, and Really Bad Chess), will all be involved. It’s like a who’s who of the most innovative game designers in the field.
Panic itself, of course, is no stranger to games, even though it’s mainly known for stellar Mac apps like Transmit and Coda.
It published the excellent FireWatch video game three years ago, and is also slated to bring the latest game from indie Australian studio Untitled Goose Game to market this year.
But Playdate is the Panic project everyone’s talking about right now. Even though it won’t hit the market until early next year.
The device will cost just $149, which seems like a bargain, even from this distance.
Orders will be open later this year, but you’d better get your name down now at https://play. date – Panic says stock will be very limited.
It’s a new hand-held gaming device, and it looks… unusual. It has a very simple 2.7in 400x240 pixel monochrome screen, a four-way d-pad, and two buttons... And the crank, of course
The Playdate captures the Game Boy’s minimalist fun vibe