Panic sells 20,000+ Playdate handhelds in under 20 minutes

As we’ve known for about a week, today was the day Panic’s charming/whacky/curious/all-of-the-above Playdate gaming device (and its crank!) went up for pre-order. The buzz around the little retro-inspired handheld seemed strong — but would that translate into actual sales?

The answer, it seems, is a hard yes. Panic committed to making 20,000 units for 2021, selling them on a first come, first serve basis. Any orders after that would still be accepted, but those orders wouldn’t ship until sometime in 2022 at the earliest.

According to Panic’s shipping estimator, those first 20,000 units were gone in under 20 minutes. That first 2021 batch went real quick. (We confirmed with a rep for Panic that the shipping estimator is accurate, and those first 20,000 units are spoken for.)

Image Credits: Panic

Like just about any much anticipated launch, the process wasn’t without its technical troubles. After a brief blink of server instability and 502 errors, Panic’s checkout system came online … only for the plug-in system they tapped to handle international shipping to come crashing down. This booted some international users out of the checkout flow and — quite unfortunately — out of their place in line and into the 2022 batch.

There’s already talk, meanwhile, of a “2023 bucket” for orders, though the company notes that “it’ll take a while” before they get there.

For those who’ve missed the story so far: The Playdate is a kinda-sorta-experimental gaming device built by Panic (the team behind Mac apps like Transmit and Prompt, and which helped ship games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game) in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. Games are released to the $179 device in “seasons,” with two games (of varying length/complexity/etc.) scheduled to ship each week of its first three months. With a black-and-white screen, minimal buttons, and, yes, a crank (for controlling games, not charging the device), this one is less “WILL IT RUN CRYSIS?!” and more … blank canvas.

While we’re not talking next-gen-console-level sales here, selling tens of thousands of units in no time flat is a resounding accomplishment for a software team’s first dive into gaming hardware. Now they’ve just gotta get them out the door.