Last April, we were thrilled that the tiny yellow Playdate handheld game console “earned its $179 price tag” with a unique design and a lineup of slick, hand-cranked free games. Unfortunately, those interested in joining the ranks of the current 25,000 Playdate owners will soon have to shell out $20 more to get their hands on this adorable handheld.
The increase to a price of $199 comes “because our factory recently gave us the inevitable news that in 2023, the price of building a single Playdate will go up,” Panic (Untitled Goose Game) said CEO Cable Sasser in a Playdate update stream Tuesday. “Our margins are already surprisingly small, so while we’ve absorbed a lot of weird price increases on this weird ride, this is the one we couldn’t avoid, and we’re truly sorry.”
For those who want to avoid the roughly 11 percent price increase, Panic is giving interested customers until April 7 to purchase a Playdate at the current price of $179. Customers still waiting on their pre-orders (which should be filled by “early 2023,” Panic Now says) won’t have to pay the higher price.
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 ongoing supply chain issues. Meta raised the price of its Quest 2 headset from $299 to $399 last July, while Sony was forced to raise the price of the PS5 in many regions outside of the US last August.
New game, new features.
Along with the price increase, Panic today announced some major new features and content for the 11-month gaming rendezvous. The latest downloadable system update adds Playdate’s first integrated “Catalogue” system. There, users can purchase and download games directly to the Playdate hardware, instead of uploading downloaded games. from itch.io or other web-based sources (of course, sideloading will still work).
The 15 titles selected in the first Catalog update include two that are available completely free of charge: reel theft, a heist game based on a crank-controlled fishing rod; other recommendation dog, about a canine temp worker who helps meet the needs of the city. Those titles serve “as a little bonus thank you for every Playdate owner,” says Panic, and add to the Season One collection of 24 free games still available, gave out two a week to each new Playdate owner. Other titles in the catalog are currently available for $1 to $15 and require a credit card to be added to your 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 at Panic’s offices.
Despite the price increase, it’s nice to see a small company like Panic continue to put time and effort into a decidedly niche console like the Playdate. Here’s hoping the hardware catalog opens the new little device to an explosion of new software just like the App Store did for the iPhone all those years ago.