I'm surprised there isn't already a Playdate thread


Well, last year I learned about the [Playdate](https://play.date/) console, and got excited about its aesthetics and potential. (For those who don't know: tiny banana yellow Game Boy with a crank on the side for some reason, with the gimmick of one new game developed by a proven indie developer automatically downloaded to the system per month.)

I breathlessly signed up for the newsletter. I awaited news. Some came, but then it stopped. There was an unfortunate controversy about the name of the console, and an unwillingness to change it on the part of its developers.

Maybe it was too good to be true, I thought. Then a pandemic happened. That'll throw a wrench into just about anything.

Recently, little updates have started dribbling out. Apparently this thing still exists in some form! Is it coming out? I don't know! Was its thunder stolen by that there Analogue Pocket? Almost certainly.

I'll tell you what, though: I'm more excited about the Playdate by an order of magnitude than I am about the PlayStation Five or the latest Xbox.

Is anyone else?

So I am interested in it, and will get one - but unfortunately I know a bit too much about it which has sort of soured me on it in general. I don‘t really want to dampen anyone’s excitement because it does have that playfulness that‘s missing from games in general. But all the games made for the play date are done on a more-or-less volunteer basis. the company, though run by extremely wealthy people, pays less than $10k for folks to develop games. That’s why the question of diversity of product came up a year or so ago when someone pointed out that the games coming to the platform were majority by well-known white men. This was because all the folks making games for it were in a financial position to make a game they didn‘t have to recoup money on, something they could do for fun as a side project. Nobody who isn’t already successful can afford to make a game for this thing.

while fun side projects are great, it kind of makes the whole thing feel a bit odd - there's theoretically a revshare option for this but since games are released free, in series, the money only comes from profit made from selling enough consoles, I wonder about the recoupability of.

So, it feels like it's mostly a hobby console, but it's sort of being treated like this real organized thing, which puts it into a grey area that makes me feel uncomfortable about it.

I'm still going to buy one! but it's just in an odd spot for me.

I want one.

When it came out I was a little interestedmore in the Arduboy, which is another hobby console but it‘s only $29. It’s also super duper tinyyy


The hand crank is interesting but I think I was turned off on it for the same reasons Exodus was. Kind of a vanity game console and not a lot of reasons for me to get it. The way the name conflict hashed out was really disappointing too.

I really want to know if any arduboy games are any fun… it seems like a cool thing but you'd have to sift through everything to get the 5 playable games. On the other hand, that might be a fun project for somebody… maybe on this web site.

The Playdate strongly appeals to me.

It seems like the folks behind this have made some missteps, but it doesn't seem like they are coming from a place of bad faith, and they seem to be open to criticism.

I like every design choice they've made
D-pad, two face buttons, and a crank. Sure!
Black and white screen. Yes.
Looks like a little Game Boy. Yes.
It's yellow. Yes!
It's got a little purple protective cover. Yes!

It sounds like the idea is that it'll have two streams for game development.
Playdate pays enough that some big name successful folk make fun little side projects on it, because they want to.
Hopefully there will be a few seasons of professional games to buy.
Meanwhile, hobbyists think it's neat and make free games for it, and maybe make some weird ports.
The end result being that every game on it is designed by people whose main goal is to make a fun thing for a fun game system. It doesn't sound like a perfect approach, but it doesn't sound like a terrible place to start.

The optimist in me thinks that if they have enough success with this model and their audience encourages them to feature more diverse designers they might pony up for specific gets. The system could be sort of a designer showcase, a mix of successful dude semi-volunteers and featured designers they pay a little more for.

I would like a game system where
every game is a passion project
the audience knows the designers not the publishers
privileged folk help signal boost other voices

There's a good chance that's just a pipe dream, but at least this system is interesting enough that it let's me dream a little.


I have a Gamebuino which was sorta the predecessor to the Arduboy with an actual game switcher mechanism. There‘s some fun little games you can make on Arduino-tier hardware, but the extreme RAM/ROM limitations cut things down to the sorta stuff you’d find on the Pocketstation or VMU. There's a group called Team ARG that makes really technical impressive stuff like Arduventure too though.

I've posted about this before but weird alternative handhelds have been blowing up lately and I'm a huge fan. I'll probably end up buying one of these, but right now I'm pretty content with this guy (until my Retroid Pocket 2 gets here at least):

The Playdate is most certainly not for me.

When I first saw the reveal for it I immediately thought of the Pocket Operators that Teenage Engineering (the people responsible for the crank!) make. If you haven't seen these before, they're essentially tiny synthesizers/sequencers that acoustically are modeled on 80s synth, aesthetically are inspired by Game & Watch style LCD games, but, in terms of how you actually use one, they work in their own weird completely idiosyncratic way.

Here's someone using one of the newer ones, the PO-33 K.O., which has a built in sampler.


These things are not at all easy to use! They're extraordinarily complicated. Holding certain buttons makes other buttons work differently, and as they're designed to give a level of control that's at least comparable to professional equipment (at least professional equipment from the 80s), there's a huge amount to learn. Yet, their whole design exudes an aura of gaminess that makes them incredibly fun, even when you're a person who (at least initially) has no idea what you're doing (like me). Once you do learn to use one, they feel like an extension of the self. They're a wonderful inexpensive way to learn about making music.

So when I saw that crank on the side of the Playdate and learned that Teenage Engineering was involved, I immediately assumed that something crazy was going on. I thought that maybe there would be some on-console creation that uses the crank in an innovative way as an integral part of the creation process. I (very naively) thought that perhaps they had found a way to make powerful game design tools that require only a d-pad, two face buttons, and a crank.

Instead, I quickly realized that it's just a Gameboy (with a crank!). That's great and all, but it's a lot harder for me to be excited about. I suspect that most of the games on there will be completely playable with a standard controller (perhaps rotating the analog stick to simulate the crank). These games could be released on itch (or the Switch if people want to play in their bed or on the bus) and people would be able to pay $5-10 for them instead of $149 for the entire console. The developers would actually be able to make money. It's not clear to me why new hardware needs to be created just to artificially wall off people from playing certain games.

What I would be excited about is an actual Pocket Operator style console -- something with idiosyncratic controls, a whole bunch of weird buttons and knobs, and maybe even a crank, that is designed to make game creation on the go possible for anyone with two hands. Dreams and Mario Maker have already proven that it's possible to make games with just a controller, without any traditional programming. So what about a handheld that doesn't use a traditional control scheme, but instead something specifically geared to making games? Or maybe it doesn't even need to be about making what we would normally think of as a game, but instead just weird interactive experiences.

Obviously computers can make games. Computers can essentially do anything -- but they often have to do it in a clumsy and unintuitive way, since we are forced to interface with them using just keyboards, mice, and occasionally a controller. I suspect (of course this is nothing more than a suspicion) that with the right controls and built-in software that it could be possible to make a very gamey, very fun, very flexible extension of the human creative spirit to allow anyone to make 2D black and white Gameboy-esque worlds.

Something like that, something that allows for experiences and levels of intuitiveness that would be difficult to deliver on a computer or traditional console, seems like a much better use of the money, time, and effort that goes into the creation of new hardware than just a Gameboy with a crank. Again, I'm coming from the perspective of the Pocket Operators. That PO-33 shown above has a built in microphone for sampling things. You can go around sampling the sounds the ATM makes when it counts your money, the sound of electric doors opening and closing at the grocery store, or your neighbor's wind chimes, and turn it all into some weird song while you sit on the subway, going to work. I'd love something like that, but for making games -- or at least for making vaguely-game-resembling experiences.

Reading this all now, I realize this has nothing to do with the Playdate, other than me being disappointed that it's not the thing I naively assumed it would be after looking at it for two seconds. Oh well. I already wrote this all, so I might as well post it.

@donrumata#4668 nice. I ordered mine just before the 350M came out. I should have waited. Looks like it would feel much better to play with the analogue sticks lined up properly.

this is my true next gen console lol.

Like everyone is talking about Playstation 5 and I'm like wtf there's five of them?!?! last I checked there were only two, and a PSP also.

like seriously, when did they make a 3rd playstation? lol

It looks sooooo uncomfortable.


@saddleblasters#4669 Oh well. I already wrote this all, so I might as well post it.

that's my entire career in a nutshell


The only currently supported handheld from a major hardware manufacturer is the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch has a known build issue, the joy-con drift problem.

This is completely anecdotal but personally I haven't found any correlation between the size of the company that made a product and the build quality / reliability of the product. That's true of game systems and other things too.

Panic actually made a twitter post about how they test to make sure the 'a' and 'b' labeling on the Playdate's buttons won't wear off. If they are testing for that I'm inclined to believe they are running tests on a lot of things, but if you're curious or skeptical you could probably contact them to find out more about their testing processes.


It seems our experiences have differed. Which is a pretty normal thing for experiences to do.
I have generally bought things that looked well built, and generally they have been.
The Playdate falls into the looks well built category. Time will tell if it really is.

I already watch [Wicked Gamer Collector's Youtube channel](https://www.youtube.com/c/WickedGamerCollector/videos) sometimes.
It seems like it covers similar products. I haven't come to the same conclusion you have, which is okay.
There is plenty of room in the world for differing opinions. :)

@exodus#4620 Likewise, I also don‘t want to dampen anyone’s excitement, because I know how important it is to let people like things. I mean, this thing will undoubtedly do well, regardless of anything I could say about it, and I think it's great, since more video games and more video game consoles is always a good thing.

At the same time, there have also been some interactions of the console's creators with the queer community that have soured me on the Playdate, even if the issues involved have been apparently been resolved (or at least people involved have stopped talking about it). I'm not trying to do the IC equivalent of subtweeting, really-- all of this can be searched for if you want to know the whole story.

There's also a personal vibe thing for me about the Playdate that makes me less enthusiastic about it! It's got a very twee, tongue-in-cheek, Portland, OR vibe to it, as is to be expected since Panic is Portland-based, and having lived in Portland for quite some time, and having been part of the Portland game developer community, it's just a little bit of a turnoff for me. But again, that's just a personal thing for me, and I'm not trying to claim that this is a negative for literally any other human being!

yeah, there is a twee-ness that can only come from the perspective of people that have led a certain kind of life to the whole thing. I am still interested! but I do feel weird about it.

The playdate interests me quite a bit. I don‘t really have much desire to play games on it, but I do want to try developing for it. It’s not often that I get the chance to develop for dedicated game hardware, and that‘s what appeals to me. Though with its current price I can’t really afford it. I should probabaly spend my time making a game for anything first.

I‘m really interested and hope the pre-order for it isn’t as much of a split second mess as the Analogue Pocket's. If I understand things correctly, you can side load content into it easily? So outside of the monthly game, would this be an outlet to allow developers to sell content on itch.io to side load onto the Playdate? Also curious to see how the dev tools work, and how easy it would be for someone with limited programming knowledge to toss something together.

The monochrome output and silly crank really interest me, and I really want to make something with it.

I’m glad we have a play date thread now! I do t have a preorder but cannot wait to buy one once they’re readily available. I have a few items from Teenage Engineering and Panic has done nothing but good work outside it’s bread+butter business.

cannot effing wait!!!

edit: I made this post before reading the thread

double edit: did panic create the dev software?