Panic’s Playdate handheld starts shipping today

New orders will ship in 2023.

Image via Panic

Panic’s retro-inspired handheld, the Playdate, is finally shipping today, April 18, for first-round reservation holders. The company announced the order of operations when it comes to group shipments.

“You’ll be emailed the moment yours is sent. We’ll ramp up our shipping volume every day to make sure all of our systems are working smoothly,” said Panic in a tweet. “We think we can get Group One out the door during the next month. And remember, your season of games begins when you set up your Playdate.”

The company didn’t specify how many units are in each group of orders, but it did follow up by letting Group Two reservation holders know there will be future updates on the status of their orders. This comes after Playdate was supposed to ship back in late 2021 before a battery issue tanked launch plans.

While the Steam Deck is still the talk of the town, the Playdate approaches handheld gaming in a unique and refreshing way. Those who purchase a Playdate get access to 24 games over the course of a 12-week season. The season starts from the moment the player powers up the Playdate, meaning not every player will be on the same games. Every week, Panic will drop two games into the Playdate via the WiFi connection. Players will also be able to mirror their Playdate on a larger display to take advantage of their other hardware.

Aside from its interesting approach to the gaming library, Panic also allows users to sideload games they’ve made using the company’s own software development kit (SDK) or the browser-based creation tool called Pulp that was inspired by Bitsy. Pulp allows users with no game development background to make their own adventure and load it up to the Playdate.

If game development isn’t something users are into, then Catalog might help fill the void. Catalog, announced in today’s launch Playdate Update, gives users a way to buy apps aside from the season of games. The Catalog app will be usable straight on the Playdate, but Panic kept details sparse in its update.

Group One preorders are shipping now. Those who order a Playdate now are looking at a longer wait time that could extend into 2023. Still, Panic advises interested parties to place a preorder as soon as possible since hard-to-find parts can delay shipping times.