The Playdate Handheld Console Is the Future of Indie Gaming | CBR

The Playdate is a neat little handheld that doesn’t aim to compete with other consoles but instead provides a unique experience in the indie game corner. This small handheld by publisher Panic Inc. will feature a number of indie games digitally for gamers to enjoy on the go, making it an incredibly unique system to have. It’s the first time a console has been made solely for indie games and could have interesting implications for the industry as it has provided a dedicated space for indie development away from the AAA sphere.

The Playdate was first announced way back in 2019 then fell under the radar due to the pandemic, making it seem like just a concept. However, this year the Playdate was brought back up during E3 as part of Guerilla Collective’s showcase along with its own update video. Pre-orders will begin in July and updates with more games have been promised, making it potentially a fascinating piece of gaming history.

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The console will be retailing for $179 and Panic will be releasing two games each week until the first season of support ends after 24 games have launched. More will come later, likely with different seasons, and a developer kit will be publicly available for anyone to make a game of their own. There are accessories planned to release alongside the machine that add to its pick-up-and-play style. It’s an innovative indie version of Nintendo‘s NES and SNES Mini concept, and it has a similar look to the original yellow Game Boy.

At a passing glance, it may seem like calling the Playdate a piece of gaming history is overhyping the product. But, there’s potential for the device to have major ramifications. Many indie games are currently available through the same platforms as their AAA peers, which leads to heightened competition where AAA development usually takes the spotlight. On top of this, there is a lot of competition even between indie titles in the PC market, which adds to the complications intrinsic to development and console porting alongside certification. However, because the Playdate is an indie-specific console, it has the potential to change the playing field.

Never before has there been an indie specific space outside of PC storefronts. Even though the Playdate features smaller, more bite-sized games than the more major indie blockbusters, it opens up the potential for other indie-only consoles. Imagine if Itch.io had a home console with a connection to a unique version of its shop. It would give indie developers not just a new way to reach players, but possibly a simpler console to make games for with easier access to the necessary tools. It would be a new venture in the indie market and a way to reach more players. There is always the argument that people can play on PC and access indie games easily, but the flexibility of a dedicated system can better fit the audience’s lifestyles, and better compete in the dominant AAA console market.

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The Playdate invites a new audience for indie developers by removing competition. The indie market is a bit oversaturated, making it difficult to know what is worthwhile. On top of this, added AAA pressure makes it even more difficult for indie titles to cut through the noise and connect with players. Giving indie games a way to step out of that shadow and have their own spaces really helps titles be discovered, and a dedicated market is key to facilitating that.

Overall, the Playdate is an interesting little handheld stepping into new territory that may have some major implications if it does well. It would definitely be nice to see more platforms outside of PC prioritize the indie scene. Perhaps an extension of this concept could lead to another golden age of gaming that sees indie titles at the forefront. Of course, these are questions for after it’s released, but for now, the Playdate is an interesting part of gaming to keep an eye on.

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The Playdate is a neat little handheld coming later this year that has the potential to make history by launching a successful indie-centric console.

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