With smartphone gaming becoming so dominant, you likely wouldn’t expect to see a new gaming handheld anytime soon, outside of a potential Nintendo Switch model.
However, Portland, Oregon-based video game company Panic is defying expectations with Playdate, a pocket-sized handheld gaming system coming in early 2020.
To start, the device sports a yellow finish and black-and-white screen with no backlight. Additionally, the Playdate features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C and a headphone jack.
The most notable element of the design, though, is the system’s crank, which serves as a rotating analogue controller that can be used as an additional control scheme in certain games.
With the yellow design and the positioning of the crank, the Playdate looks quite a bit like Pokémon mascot Pikachu.
In terms of actual games, Panic says Playdate will feature a “full season” of 12 exclusive games that will be rolled out over-the-air across a 12-week period. For the most part, Panic says it wants these games to be a “surprise,” so it isn’t revealing the full lineup at the moment.
That said, the company has revealed that one of these titles will be Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, a new title from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. The player will have to use Playdate’s crank to manipulate time to avoid incoming obstacles.
Panic says the system uses its own Playdate OS, a full-featured SDK supporting C and Lua development, a Mac-based simulator and debugger, and more.
The system will retail for $149 USD (about $200 CAD). Pre-orders are slated to go up in late 2019.
Those interested in Playdate can sign up for Panic’s mailing list for updates here.