Panic's cute Playdate handheld is doing impressive pre-order numbers


How many Playdate units were pre-ordered in the first 20 minutes.

After years of hype-building, Panic finally opened up preorders for its innovative yellow Playdate handheld yesterday. The $179 console is promised to ship some time this year for the first 20,000 customers who reserve one — and it appears Panic has already sold that entire first batch.

For the first 15 minutes or so of yesterday’s initial pre-sale, which went live at 10 a.m. ET, the Playdate pre-order page advertised a shipping date of simply “2021.” About 20 minutes in, though, that estimated shipping date switched to say the console would ship in 2022. If we put to use our powers of deduction, here, that would mean the first 20,000 units have already been snatched up. In just 20 minutes. Phew.

Panic / Input

Our deductive math is correct. A representative for Panic told TechCrunch that, yes, all 20,000 units from that first batch have already been purchased. For a company that’s never even released a piece of hardware before this year, those numbers are pretty much unheard of.

All on the basis of hype — Panic should run a masterclass in hype-building because this rollout has been truly spectacular to watch. This is a company best-known for a spunky video game about an annoying goose — a company that’s never released a piece of hardware, but nonetheless had gamers scrambling to secure its first handheld.

Ever since first being revealed on the cover of Edge magazine in May 2019, Panic has slowly but surely doled out teasers for the device — just enough at a time to keep our interest piqued along the course of two full years. Panic has kept us guessing about the device’s full set of features, only releasing them little by little. But, when revealed, they’ve always been genuinely exciting.

The hype wouldn’t be able to stand up to that two-year draw-out unless it was built upon a strong foundation. What we’ve seen of the Playdate so far has been truly unique, from its cute little hand-crank to its lineup of original games that’ll be released every week at no extra cost.

New handhelds are dominating — As far as gaming consoles go, 20,000 units isn’t enormous — bigwigs like the Xbox and Playstation consoles sell in the tens of millions every year. But for a smaller company with no hardware experience selling a really strange-looking little device, it’s nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The Playdate is also part of a much broader interest in consoles made by companies other than gaming giants Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. Valve — another company traditionally focused on software — has also gotten the internet very excited for the Steam Deck, its handheld PC gaming console.

The renewed interest in other handheld console options is likely a consequence of the generally uninspired handhelds being released by gaming giants. The early success of both the Steam Deck and the Playdate could inspire a whole wave of new consoles. We definitely wouldn’t hate that.