Publisher turned hardware maker Panic is adding another phase to the launch plan for its crank-bearing handheld the Playdate to give developers more time to toy with the device.
Panic calls the step the Playdate Developer Preview and now aims to sell developer preview units ahead of the Playdate’s full launch, giving a small slice of developers a bit of a jump on any Playdate-focused projects they’ve got in mind.
As noted in this month’s update, the preview units aren’t dev kits exactly, as the retail version of the Playdate can itself be used as a dev kit. These preview units however won’t include any games when they ship out, and will only be sold to a random selection of teams on Panic’s developer mailing lists (with some exceptions for special initiatives still under wraps).
Those in the program can then gain access to Playdate’s dev support forums and SDK. Beyond that, Panic lightly teases that it has more tools in the works to help those less familiar with the technical side of game development create for the Playdate, but hasn’t said much on that for the time being.
Panic announced the Playdate earlier this year, and expects to start taking preorders and shipping final units at some point in 2020. The small rectangular handheld looks somewhat similar to the two-buttons-and-a-d-pad devices that ushered in the earlier days of handheld systems, but with the noticeable addition of a physical crank along its right side as another input option.
At launch, the $149 device will include 12 games still shrouded in some level of secrecy, but will periodically see new, equally mysterious games downloaded directly to the device after its official launch.