The gaming industry is fueled by nostalgia for old games. Whether it's porting old games to newer consoles like with Super Mario 3D All-Stars onto the Switch, or requesting full-blown remakes of classics, such as with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, gamers will never stop trying to relive the old days.
This is exactly the marketing tactic Playdate is going for, but the console is aimed to be a lot more than just a blast to the past.
Playdate is an upcoming handheld console, but unlike the Switch or discontinued PS Vita, it's focus will be not just on indie games, but console exclusive indie games as well. Its style is reminiscent of the Game Boy Color but modernized to look sleek. Much like older handhelds, it's small enough to fit in a pocket to be taken on the go, but the Playdate is gearing up to be the most niche console on the market, which could lead either to great success via hype or only a handful of sales.
Playdate is being developed by Panic, a Portlandian software company known for publishing Untitled Goose Game and Firewatch, in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. According to Panic, Playdate is "not super cheap, but not super expensive" at the price of $149, going on preorder sometime in early 2021.
What is most interesting about Playdate is its design. Its buttons are minimal with mainly the A, B, and menu buttons and a D-pad on the front surface, but the analog crank on the right side makes the handheld console stand out against any others out there. The crank will be used as a controller in several indie games on the console, such as one of the only ones to be officially revealed so far, Time Travel Adventure.
This is where Panic hopes Playdate will really shine. First, while many indie games are developed for a variety of platforms including the Switch, PCs, and even mobile devices, Playdate will have dozens of console-exclusive games. All games released for the Playdate will be 1-bit titles, and while Panic has been keeping the first round of games somewhat quiet, players can expect titles from prominent indie developers like Keita Takahashi, known for the Katamari Damacy games.
While console exclusives are partially what drives sales for the Nintendo Switch and PS4, it'll be interesting to see how this angle influences the Playdate's success in the gaming community. Additionally, Playdate will have the Switch and other indie platforms as competition to consider, especially as Nintendo continues to rise in the indie scene.
Indie games for Playdate will be released in seasons. According to Panic, each season will consist of 12 games with one arriving each week for 12 weeks. Currently, the first season of Playdate games has been locked-in, and Panic plans to unveil a video update to reveal the titles. Panic's hope is that this means owners of the console will experience playing the same games as one another each week.
But possibly most importantly, Playdate is a devkit. Panic currently has a software development kit in the works so prominent and small-time indie devs can port their games directly to the nostalgic console. Eventually, the SDK along with the Playdate Simulator for Windows and Mac will be released to the public for free so anyone can make games for the handheld. This means Playdate could keep catching the interest of small-time and learning developers.
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