The Playdate was supposed to be one of the most unusual handheld game consoles of 2021… but it turns out the little game system with a black and white display and a hand crank won’t ship in time for that.
Due to an unforeseen issue with the first 5,000 units to roll of the manufacturing line, they’re headed back to the factory to be retrofitted with new batteries and they won’t ship until early 2022. And global supply chain shortages have led Playdate maker Panic to push back the ship dates for the next 45,000 or so units too.
The company had originally hoped to ship the first 20,000 units to customers by the end of 2021, but not only did the company have to select a new battery after realizing that their first choice wouldn’t cut it, but when Panic went to place an order with its manufacturing partner it turned out that:
“Many of our parts have been delayed significantly. In fact, we can’t get any more of Playdate’s current CPU for — you’re not going to believe this — two years. Like, 730 days.”
So Panic revised the mainboard for its game console to accommodate a different chip that’s more widely available.
Now the company says the first 20,000 Playdate consoles will ship in early 2022, with 30,000 more shipping in the second half of the year. Units made later in 2022 will most likely have the new mainboard and processor, but they should be functionally identical to the earlier units, with support for the same games and features.
Panic is still accepting pre-orders for the Playdate from folks willing to pay $179 for a console that’s unlikely to actually ship anytime soon.
The Playdate is a 3″ x 2.9″ x 0.35″ gaming device with a small 400 x 240 pixel, 1-bit black and white display, a mono speaker, stereo headphone jack with mic input, support for WiFi 4 and Bluetooth connectivity, and a game controller system featuring a D-Pad, A & B buttons, a 3-axis accelerometer and a hand crank.
Designed to run custom games made for the platform, the Playdate is a casual gaming device that won’t have all the features of a Nintendo Switch or even a smartphone. But its unique design and control system will make it unlike anything else on the market when it eventually ships, and Panic is working with developers to deliver a “season” of games to customers – you’ll get two games per week for 12 weeks, giving you a total of 24 games that are all included in the purchase price.
Panic also plans to offer optional accessories including a Stereo Dock that acts as a charger and Bluetooth speaker, as well as a Playdate cover.