Panic Playdate has a new wave of games and a price increase

My favorite little one gaming handheld last year was the Panic play date, a little yellow pocket console with a crank and its own included library of weird indie games. Although the Playdate launched last year, shipping delays and shortages have meant that many people still haven’t been able to get their hands on one. But the handheld just added its own gaming app catalog to the console with a ton of new games… and a price increase for anyone who hasn’t pre-ordered yet.

The Playdate used to cost $179, but the price will go up to $199 starting April 7. Pre-orders before then will lock in at the price of $179. Product price increases are currently becoming common (it happened with the Quest 2 last year). The Playdate’s unique games (24 come with it) and small design still make it worth the price for a curious indie handheld fan, but it also forces this experimental device into the same price as more versatile handhelds like the Nintendo Switch Lite.

The season-based game library approach for the Playdate, which launched with its own catalog of included games that are automatically downloaded to the device twice a week, is being moved up with the handheld’s new catalog. The games in the Catalog are sold separately, although two are free to download. The games are welcome additions: there are 16 to get you started, 10 of which are new. The other six are familiar hits already available for sideload from, an indie gaming hub that has been a great source for other experimental Playdate games.

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The game prices range from $1 to $15. I’m playing them right now, but I wish some of these games also had free demos to understand how they work. Diving into a $1 game is fine, but $15 isn’t exactly an impulse buy.

Using the Catalog feels like an on-Playdate extension of the games I can already get through in many ways, but with a more curated focus. is fun to browse and has many games that are completely free, but it’s a more unpredictable mix of experimentation and more polished products. Those games also need to be downloaded and then re-uploaded through Panic’s own website, which sideloads the games onto the Playdate, while the on-Playdate catalog just adds them instantly. (The 4GB onboard storage may seem small, but I’ve already saved dozens of games and still haven’t used half of them.)

Panic Playdate game handheld in yellow, with a black and white screen showing games for sale

Scott Stein/CNET

What I was really hoping for was a proper season 2 of Playdate games, but that’s not here yet or the planned rollout for future games is changing. Either way, it’s still a promising sign that future indie games will be easier to find on the Playdate, and hopefully a steady stream will continue. Hopefully the Playdate is finally also easy to order. According to Panic, Wave 4 pre-orders are shipping now, but the ultimate hope is that the handhelds won’t be backordered at all. Valve fixed the delivery issues on the Steam Deck; hopefully Panic will do the same.

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