Panic’s Playdate handheld game console offers a fairly niche experience. With a black-and-white screen and a smorgasbord of indie hits that rely on a crank system for gameplay, you’d expect a lukewarm uptake from gaming fans – or at least, Panic itself did. But despite all expectations, it seems the console has become a surprise smash hit.
As recently announced by Panic, it has sold around 53,142 Playdates worldwide since preorders opened in July 2021. According to project lead Greg Maletic, the company had only prepared to sell 20,000 units – and clearly, massively underestimated the appeal of the Playdate.
‘It’s been a great year for Playdate,’ Maletic said of the success, per The Verge. ‘When we started, we had no idea how big the audience would be for a weird product like this, but we told the factory: build 20,000. To have now sold more than 53,000 (and counting) is heartening. And this, at a time when parts shortages forced our delivery lead-times out as much as a year.’
‘As those lead-times shorten and Playdate delivery becomes more immediate, we’re looking forward to an even better year two.’
Read: Playdate handheld console gets price rise, new storefront
Around 27,000 Playdate game consoles have reportedly shipped to customers so far, with the remaining allotment in the process of being produced and shipped out. Complications with the global shipping industry – largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its knock-on impact – have challenged the team as it works to address unexpected demand, but Maletic believes all preorders for the console will be shipped by the end of 2023.
Once these consoles are in the hands of buyers, Panic can refocus on its unique game delivery method, which consists of subscription ‘seasons’ that deliver users with new games on a regular basis. In addition, the console also has a dedicated ‘Catalog’ store where players can purchase uniquely-built Playdate games that take advantage of the console’s crank and capabilities.
As the production bottleneck for the Playdate clears, it’s expected that purchasing the console will become much easier – although late adoptees will need to contend with a slightly increased fee. In early 2023, the Playdate got a US $20 price bump due to the rising cost of manufacturing.