Playdate, the cute little handheld with a crank, won’t be making its late 2021 debut, developer Panic Inc. told early buyers via email this morning.
As the Playdate’s first 5,000 units rolled off the assembly line, Panic found serious issues with the batteries despite the same power sources previously working just fine in the pre-release builds sent to game devs.
“Playdate’s battery is designed to last a very long time, and always be ready for you, even if not used for a while,” the email explains. “But that was not the case: in fact, we found a number of units with batteries so drained, Playdate wouldn’t power on at all — and couldn’t be charged. That’s a battery worst-case scenario.”
After a “months-long, all-hands-on-deck” stress test, Panic concluded that the current batteries simply weren’t up to the quality they intended for the Playdate, and halted manufacturing until the problem could be resolved. The solution? New batteries from a new supplier. But this also means a slight delay on the first round of pre-orders, which now won’t ship until early 2022.
It’s not all bad news, thankfully. Panic also found a workaround for that massive, pandemic-related chip shortage you may have heard about. Since the parts they needed were on back-order for over two years, the company revised the Playdate’s main board to use a different CPU entirely, one that’s much easier to get its hands on.
“Board revisions are complex and costly,” the email continues. “But this other CPU can, for whatever reason, be obtained much sooner. And you won’t notice anything different about this new board revision when it comes to playing games — functionally it will be the same. But it’ll give us the best chance at getting you a Playdate next year, which we both want.”
Additionally, Panic plans to release Pulp — the Playdate’s simple, browser-based game-making app — in open beta next January, with the full software development kit to follow in February for all you aspiring developers out there.
Delays suck for everyone involved, but here’s to people in the video game industry being open and honest about the troubles they’re facing. I don’t mind waiting a little longer if it gives everyone at Panic some peace of mind.
More info on these Playdate developments can be found here.