Panic reveals Playdate, a pocket-size game console with hand crank

Panic, the company best known for its Mac and iOS software, has revealed a new pocket-size handheld game console that features a tiny hand crank, D-pad, and black and white display. Called Playdate, the small device resembles a short, wide Game Boy, though there's the obvious exception of a hand crank used as a type of joystick during gameplay.

The Playdate handheld gaming system will launch next year, according to Panic, which detailed the new device on a Twitter thread today. The company previously dabbled with video games via its Firewatch in 2016 and the Untitled Goose Game that will launch this year.

Playdate is entirely different and relatively unique, challenging smartphone games to see whether there's still a market for dedicated handheld consoles. The device is the result of more than four years of work, according to Panic, which has packed some modern tech into an arguably retro product — users will get a 2.7-inch monochromatic screen, USB-C, Bluetooth, WiFi, and a headphone jack.

Panic calls the Playdate's hand crank 'literally revolutionary,' and there's the obvious benefit that you can't substitute it with anything available for smartphones. The device will arrive with a 'full season of games,' according to Panic, including an original title called Crankin' Time Travel Adventure.

As its name suggests, the game utilizes the console's hand crank as a vital part of gameplay — in this case, the crank is used to control the flow of time in the game. Crankin', as well as the other games, operates on the company's Playdate OS, part of the overall Playdate system that was created entirely from scratch.

Panic plans to release Playdate early next year with a retail price of $149 USD; customers can expect pre-orders to start some time later this year.