While several major companies dominate handheld gaming, there's been some success among independent creators. The company Panic started shipping its original handheld console, the PlayDate, earlier this year. Since then, they've already sent out over 10,000 as part of the first major shipment. Since it was announced, the PlayDate has slowly been consumer-base with orders already filled for the next few shipments.
The PlayDate Console
First appearing in 2021, the PlayDate is a handheld console unlike any of the top brand models. It's not designed to play other games on the market, instead it tries to cultivate its own library. Designed for both players and designers, the PlayDate is made to be accessible which is why so many orders have been placed. The first shipment, which Panic refers to as Group One, has been sent out with over 10,000 units since it launched two months ago. As a result of such a positive response, Panic has announced that Group Two shipped earlier this month and that Group Three is already taking orders. As the number of PlayDate users continues to grow, Panic states that they will keep to a production schedule while maintaining internal and international shipping.
Part of what has earned the PlayDate so much attention is its design. Sitting in the palm of your hand this device looks close to the retro Gameboy designs but it also has unusual controller features with the classic inclusion of buttons and directional pad along with a crank on its side. The crank has been shown to control character movement and the pacing of the game overall. It also comes with a high resolution reflective black-and-white screen, a strong processor, WiFi capabilities, and plans to implement Bluetooth in the future. In terms of gaming, the PlayDate acts as a contained streaming service that will update with new games every for over three months. Lastly, it supports SDK files and comes with tools to allow people to create their own games for the system.
The PlayDate is already flying off the shelves with two groups of shipments already going out. If the trend continues, it may get harder and harder for people to get their hands on one.