The global chip shortage has put serious pressure on the upcoming production of portable gaming devices this week. Barely a day after Valve announced that its upcoming handheld PC would be delayed “two months”, the quirky, indie-minded Playdate console that was originally due to arrive by the end of 2021 followed suit Thursday.
In the case of this yellow, crooked Game Boy-like system, its manufacturers at Panic have chosen to reveal virtually everything that leads to its system being delayed until “early 2022” – and orders beyond the first 20,000 are pushed further back.
In a long newsletter sent to Playdate customers who pre-ordered, Panic began by describing a confusing hardware problem that its team found in its first batch of 5,000 completed systems, all apparently ready to be sent to customers by the end of 2021: a damaged battery. “We found a number of devices with batteries so drained that Playdate would not turn on at all – and could not be charged,” writes Panic.
This resulted in a “months-long” battle, exacerbated by the fact that preview hardware sent to members of the press (including yours truly) did not reproduce these battery issues. While investigating the issue, Panic stopped all al Playdate production until a new battery supplier could be secured. Playdate’s announcement confirms that this has actually taken place and that all existing systems are now in a production queue to have batteries replaced and reach customers in “early 2022.” Panic’s newsletter suggests that around 20,000 systems were part of this initial production run.
Like, how many days?
For systems beyond the first run, however, Panic ran into another problem. As the company writes:
With lots of pre-orders in place, we immediately placed an order at our factory for all the necessary parts for 2022 units and later. The answer was … sober. Many of our parts have been significantly delayed. In fact, we can not get more of Playdate’s current CPU in – you will not believe it – two years. That is 730 days.
The Panic team chose to reduce their two-year wait by adopting a different strategy: revising the entire Playdate system motherboard with a different CPU for all orders beyond the first batch of 20,000 systems. Panic says this CPU is “similar but more widely available”, but while the Playdate team was initially aware of its first choice for the 180 MHz CPU, the company has not yet clarified which replacement CPU it has chosen. Nor will this change the price of existing Playdate orders, though it is unclear whether Panic will bear the bulk of a price difference on parts, other than to suggest that “board revisions are complex and expensive.”
Panic insists that regardless of the difference in specifications, players will not notice it – and this means that the revised board will contain quirks like a gyroscope. But we’ll still have to wait a while before we can put two Playdate hardware revisions side by side to notice any difference in home-brewed games pushing the system’s modest specifications to their limits. After the initial hardware run is fully shipped, Panic estimates that an additional 20,000 revised Playdate systems will begin reaching later pre-order customers in the “second half of 2022,” with an additional 10,000 systems landing entirely by the end of 2022.
All Playdate orders beyond them will “almost certainly land in 2023,” Panic writes. If you have already placed a Playdate pre-order, you have probably already received an email confirming your “group number”. Panic suggests that this number is large, as it is in line with the air-freight pallets of consoles to arrive at Panic’s department stores during 2022.
On the software side, Panic has confirmed that Playdate’s web-based development platform (“Pulp”) will be launched in January 2022, with the full Playdate SDK (intended to help developers build games and software using C or Lua coding languages) after in February 2022.
Panic also confirmed that Playdate’s “season pass” selection of 24 games, which comes as part of the unit’s $ 179 price tag, will be shut down once new owners turn on their systems, as opposed to working on a universal calendar. If you get your Playdate near the end of 2022, still have to wait for your hardware to unlock each of your games in a weekly two-game drop. Even if your system arrives 12 weeks after your friend and they have all 24 games unlocked, you will still have to wait week by week for all of your locks to unlock (unless you find an alternative way to load and play them through the system). connection to PCs).
All Longing Christmas Dreams 2021 now shifts to Analogue and its portable, retro-minded Pocket system: Will any of its pre-orders land in customers’ hands by the end of the year, or will it also be delayed due to the severe production crunch in all industries?