Veteran software developer firm Panic, which has made its name through high-end Mac software as well as titles such as Firewatch, is expanding its work in games and moving in a very unexpected direction. This week, Panic unveiled Playdate, a tiny, yellow Game Boy-like device with a black-and-white screen, a few chunky buttons, and... a hand crank for controlling quirky games. From a report: Playdate is adorable and exciting and fun and technically impressive. They're making their own hardware (in conjunction with Swedish device makers Teenage Engineering). They wrote their own OS (there's no Linux). It has a high resolution 400 x 240 black and white display with no backlighting. It has a crank. It's going to cost only $149 -- $149! -- and that includes a "season" of 12 games from an amazing roster of beloved video game creators, delivered every Monday for 12 weeks. The idea of a new upstart, a company the size of Panic -- with only software experience at that -- jumping into the hardware game with a brand new platform harkens back to the '80s and '90s. But even back then, a company like, say, General Magic or Palm, was VC-backed and aspired to be a titan. To be the next Atari or Commodore or Apple.
In today's world all the new computing devices and platforms come from huge companies. Apple of course. All the well-known Android handset makers building off an OS provided by Google. Sony. Nintendo. Panic is almost cheating in a way because they're tiny. The Playdate platform isn't competing with the state of the art. It's not a retro platform, per se, but while it has an obviously nostalgic charm it is competing only on its own terms. Its only goal is to be fun. And aspects of Playdate are utterly modern: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, apps and software updates delivered over-the-air. They're taking advantage of an aspect of today's world that is brand new -- the Asian supply chain, the cheapness of Asian manufacturing, the cheapness of CPU and GPU cycles that allows things like Raspberry Pi to cost just $35.
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