Our favorite video game projects are the truly offbeat, quirky ones — like most of Nintendo’s experiments, or what Sega was like during the Dreamcast years. Aside from them, no one really takes any chances on crazy ideas. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere game developer Panic (responsible for the hit title Firewatch, among other things) announced they’ve been working on a handheld for the past four years.

This is the Playdate, a purposely retro miniature game player with a 2.7-inch NON-backlit display capable of 400×240 pixel graphics in strict black and white. It has a CRANK controller. We’re serious…a pull-out crank that you can use to twist around and control some of the games.

What kind of games? Plenty. Many of indie-dom’s star developers lined up to create Playdate games after being shown the thing. Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Zach Gage (SpellTower), Bennett Foddy (QWOP) and Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket) all created Playdate games that will be released in the first “season” of the handheld’s existence, released one week at a time, at no charge to those who bought a Playdate. The games will simply auto-load and appear on the display the morning they become active.

All of this comes to you at an easy-to-swallow price of just — *record scratch* $149? Okay, the cost could use a little work. Perhaps it’s the storage capacity that’s driving up the price…we don’t know yet how much data the Playdate can hold.

This is certainly the most original tech device we’ve seen in some time, and Shigeru Miyamoto must be HORRIBLY jealous of that crank. It’s so untested an idea that there’s no way to tell what the public reaction will be. But even if the Playdate turns out to be a sales flop, even if the only customer is Kelsey Lewin, we’ll always be proud of this thing’s mere existence. Panic, we salute you.

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