The Potential And Pitfalls Of The Playdate
The Playdate is an upcoming handheld console developed by Panic coming out at the end of this year. It’s a small console with its most immediate eye-catching feature being its crank which it uses as an input method for some games. The console automatically downloads two games a week on a Friday which are included in a season of games, all of these games are made specifically for the handheld by indie developers. I am very excited for this device, I’ve been missing a dedicated handheld gaming device in my life, the games shown off so far look like the kind of games I enjoy the most (artsy indie stuff made by like 2 people on shoestring budget) and I really enjoy the aesthetic and style of the console.
But I’m sure as soon as you started reading about the device you got war flashbacks to the Ouya. A device that made over 8 and a half million dollars on Kickstarter in 2012, and despite its initial crowdfunding success, buzz from the gaming press and many exciting promises, it failed to catch on with any kind of audience and was discontinued 2 years after it launched. The Ouya is nowadays thought of as nothing more than a bad joke that would rather be forgotten. It was a mismanaged mess that pleased no one and disappointed thousands.
But the Playdate is already off to a better start than the Ouya. The developers are only manufacturing twenty thousand initial units, the console will be getting 2 free games a week for at least 12 weeks and Panic are being very direct and clear about what the Playdate is, and don’t seem to be making any promises that they can not deliver on. But despite Panic’s sense of preparedness for the console's launch, convincing gamers that the Playdate is a console worth buying and that it will not go the way of the Ouya will be its biggest hurdle.
The core initial audience of the Playdate will be gamers who have a strong interest in indie titles. Panic is the publisher behind Firewatch (one of my favourite games), Untitled Goose Game and the upcoming Nour: play with your food so they have a brief but very strong indie line up . Panic knows what makes a game successful as they’ve published two of the most successful indie games of the past decade, so the games they allow to be released in the seasons of games they create should be of a high quality. The titles shown off so far range from adventure games, sports games and RPGs so it seems Panic are also striving for a great variety in the experiences they offer on the platform which will no doubt help it stick out in the eyes of gamers who may have initially thought that the console would not offer much beyond simple small games.
The console is also planning to be open for developers, allowing them to make their own games and get them running on the playdate with little hassle. In fact it seems to be something encouraged by Panic who have a section on the playdate website with information just for hopeful developers. And with the pulp game editor that they’ve created for use with browsers it seems like the Playdate is hoping to turn its players into developers which could be a good way to attract a lot of gamers who want to develop their own games but haven't made the leap yet.
The Playdate won't be perfect and there’s nothing saying it won't be a huge flop and will tank Panic but I’m hopeful. If the Playdate becomes as good as it can be and is well managed then we could have a really special little console just for indie games on our hands soon.
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