Adorable Playdate handheld gets new free games alongside $20 price increase


Is the Playdate the most adorable portable console out there? You gotta believe!
Enlarge / Is the Playdate the most adorable portable console out there? You gotta believe!

Sam Machkovech

Last April, we enthused that the tiny, yellow Playdate portable game console “earns its $179 price tag” with a unique design and a lineup of free, inventive crank-powered games. Unfortunately, those interested in joining the ranks of 25,000 current Playdate owners will soon have to shell out $20 more to get their hands on this adorable handheld.

The increase to a $199 price is coming “because our factory recently gave us the inevitable news that in 2023, the price of building a single Playdate is going up,” Panic (Untitled Goose Game) CEO Cabel Sasser said in a Playdate update stream Tuesday. “Our margins are already surprisingly slim, so although we’ve absorbed a lot of weird price increases on this weird journey, this is the one we couldn’t avoid, and we’re truly sorry.”

For those who want to avoid the roughly 11 percent price hike, Panic is giving interested customers until April 7 to purchase a Playdate at the current $179 price. Customers still waiting on their preorders (which should all be fulfilled in “early 2023,” Panic now says) will not have to pay the higher price.

The Playdate isn’t alone among gaming hardware makers that have been forced to raise their prices of late in response to higher-than-normal inflation and continued supply chain issues. Meta raised the price of its Quest 2 headset from $299 to $399 last July, while Sony was forced to nudge the PS5’s price higher in many non-US regions last August.

New game, new features

Alongside the price increase, Panic announced some important new features and content for the 11-month-old Playdate today. The latest downloadable system update adds Playdate’s first onboard “Catalog” system. There, users can purchase and download games directly to the Playdate hardware, rather than sideloading games downloaded from itch.io or other web-based sources (sideloading will still work, of course).

The 15 curated titles in the first Catalog update include two that are available absolutely free: Reel Steal, a heist game based around a crank-controlled fishing pole; and Recommendation Dog, about a canine temp worker helping to fulfill the city’s needs. Those titles serve “as a little thank you bonus for every Playdate owner,” Panic says, and come on top of the still-available Season One collection of 24 free games, delivered two per week to every new Playdate owner. Other Catalog titles are currently available for $1 to $15 and require a credit card to be added to the Playdate account via the web.

Elsewhere in today’s update, Panic also promised that the Stereo Dock first announced nine months ago is still in the works, with beta hardware recently arriving in the Panic offices.

Despite the price increase, it’s nice to see a small company like Panic continuing to put time and effort into a decidedly niche console like the Playdate. Here’s hoping the on-hardware Catalog opens the novel little device up to an explosion of new software just as the App Store did for the iPhone all those years ago.


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