Playdate, adorable 1-bit handheld game console, available for preorder next month

Originally published at: Playdate, adorable 1-bit handheld game console, available for preorder next month | Boing Boing

The cm at the very end made me laugh with the dock mention. I’ll prob be skipping that part.

I’m sort of excited about the ez dev kit, but as a pico 8 enthusiast I’m pretty sure if I get one it’ll just be another platform I don’t finish any projects on,

Also I’m a little anxious about what what foddy may have done,

Must we call it a 1-bit console? In the history of the console wars, only TurboGrafx used such naming convention and people kind of thought it was cheating at the time.

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I have been excited about this since it was first announced in the before times. I have no idea if I will actually end up playing it, but I feel like they’re onto something by (1) making it a desirable physical object that doesn’t take up space and (2) framing the content as a kind of periodical or TV channel. Ever since the best mobile game (Leap Day) came out like 5 years ago, I’ve been convinced that’s the future of indie gaming.

Instead of games having to be giant hits you’d pay a wad of cash for (which is economically untenable for small creators), make them interesting and lo-fi and bring out new ones every week. If the players don’t like how short or weird something is, they don’t have to wait long for something completely different, and the developers can make games as a real paying job. What I’m hoping is it could be like 2000AD, but for games.

That bamboozled me slightly. It’s presumably a 64-bit Cortex-A chip in there, and although the screen is monochrome, they’re not in any way pitching this as a retro console; it seems quite powerful as these things go. Also, when I think of retro gaming involving a monochrome screen, the only platform that comes to mind is the original Mac, which no one ever called “1-bit” (it had a high-end 16-bit CPU).

(The original Game Boy had a 2-bit grayscale display)

Reminds me of that other Teenage Engineering product, the OP-1 – soooo stylish and I totally want one and will never get one because I have absolutely no use for it whatsoever.

The product-coveting is so strong that I feel like whatever arcane consumer magics they imbued into these things fizzled out at the Sigil Of Acquisition stage, or bounced off a ward or something.

Since the ‘X-bit’ term was always marketing jargon, and variously applied to color depth, processor, or nothing at all about the hardware, I’m not fussed with their using it here. It’s a fair description of the color depth of the display, and fits the kind of playful, twee, pseudo-retro vibe they’re going for here.

Admittedly, the tone of the whole enterprise feels a bit precious to me, and I’m always wary when tech companies try superficially cutesy stuff (“We’re all introducing ourselves with just first names! Because we’re your friends! Who want to sell you something!”) to humanize their brand. But the 1-bit thing doesn’t feel incongruously more grating than anything else about the presentation of the thing.

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My guess is that this is trying to take the Nintendo approach to gaming. Focus on an intentionally underpowered system, and try and focus on the essence of what makes gaming fun. It even has a physical aspect, a fiddly thing you use to play games with, not unlike the role of the WiiMote.

Taking this view, the price is nuts. Wii’s pricing made the units move off the shelf. In its later years, it even had a good selection of games, but Nintendo even so only seemed to be able to sell the base unit with WiiSports - which it did at a profit because the cost of production was so low.

I don’t mind the seasonal content model - I assume that you’ll have to purchase future seasons - as long as this doesn’t end up in a subscription model just to use the games you have already installed. Other gaming vendors are trying this and it needs to DIAF.

I interpreted “1-bit” to mean that its display showed one bit of information. As in, a single LED that is either on or off.

I was inspired by the creativity and skill it would take to make a whole game system that worked under such strict formal constraints. But now that I see it has thousands of bits in its display, meh.

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