Panic has just started launching Playdate, its unusual new gaming handheld. Part of Playdate’s appeal is its quirky hardware: In an era where new handheld devices have brilliant OLED screens or are powerful enough to play your library of Steam games, Playdate is a small device that has a crank and can only show games in black and white. But Playdate is also interesting because of its “season” release model for games.
Everyone who buys a Playdate gets access to an entire season of 24 games, though you will not be able to play them all at once. Instead, you get two games when you first set up the device, and then Panic sends you two new games on Mondays in an almost TV show-like release cadence.
“We’ve been excited about the idea of delivery over time because getting 24 games at once on one device for me, for me personally, I would bet would be kind of overwhelming,” Greg Maletic, director of special projects at Panic , told me in an interview. “I think I would take my time with each of them. And delivery over time enforces it in a way.”
It’s an exciting idea. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all offer their own collections of games through their subscription services, but the sheer amount of titles available can make it a formidable task to decide to play and stick to any game. It’s like being paralyzed when trying to find something to watch on Netflix. And I’m just got to accept that I’ll never catch up with my backlog of purchased games that I never finished (or in some cases even started). Panic’s approach, on the other hand, means you get two games every week for about three months, no matter when you buy a Playdate, so you have a more limited selection to start with, even if you get a Playdate months later. release.
However, Panic is not sure how people will react to the staggered releases. ‘Do people like it or do they find it annoying? We actually do not really know yet, ”said Maletic. The original intention was to release a “fully synchronized season for each owner,” Panic said on its website. But to make it work, Panic had to somehow ensure that a lot of people could all get their Playdates at the same time, which would prove challenging given things like the global chip shortage (which has already affected Playdate ).
Panic is also working on an app called Catalog where you will be able to browse games directly on Playdate, which could be a useful way to find new non-season games. “It’s going to be a select selection of games that we like, that we’ve written, that we’ve ordered … just found,” Maletic said. “We want to make them visible to the Playdate audience.” He noted that developers do not have to be in the catalog to sell Playdate games. (There are a handful of titles available right now on eg itch.io.) But with Catalog we would like to be able to make visible [games] which we really wanted people to be aware of. ” Maletic said the catalog “hopefully will be out soon.”
In the meantime, you can sideload games, which can be important for the future of the device. If Panic never makes another season, or if Catalog does not prove to be a success, sideloading means you can download or purchase games from elsewhere, even if Panic has not explicitly approved or curated them.
Given the experimental nature of the release schedule, Panic is not committing to another season yet. “But definitely, if people like it, then we’ll definitely try to make it happen,” Maletic said.