tl;dr: playdate fanboy reporting.

by Dries De Roeck on May 23, 2019

During my morning commute I spotted a tweet by Cowly Owl’s Chris O’Shea about Upon seeing the playdate device, I was totally sold. Love at first sight, for sure. Finding out that the swiss army knifes of Panic (Firewatch and more) and multimedia hardware crème de là crème Teenage Engineering (OP-1 and more) are behind it made me even more excited.

The reason I love the device so much already is not because of the crank or the fact that Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) will make games for it. It is the service oriented model behind the whole thing that I look forward to most.

Playdate is the perfect example of what I refer to in my ongoing research as a hybrid product service system. Meaning that it consists of a piece of hardware (in this case a wonderfully designed handheld gaming device) which is inherently linked to an intangible, digital, service component. Upon launch, the company will be releasing a game every week for at least 12 weeks. What I find interesting about that, is that you buy ‘future’ or ‘potential’ value. At the same time, you know that the product will always hold some value. Even without the network connection or without the service components, you will be able to keep playing games.

The product will be connected to the internet through wifi, which makes it possible for the creators to update the firm/software along the way. Interestingly, we’re now taking this for granted but in essence it is a very disruptive ‘potential’ business model. I’ve been refering to this as taking care of ‘future implications’ in my value framework model.

Another exciting aspect of playdate is its openness to the game development community. Although Panic hasn’t said too much about it yet, I’m imagining they will offer some kind of SDK or other tools (I’m thinking PICO-8 style) for a wider community to create experiences with the device – most likely not limited to the default interpretation of ‘games’.

Lastly, playdate has a monochrome screen. In times of ultra 4K and 5G broadband mobile networks it shows that getting back to basics and focussing on the essentials is more than good enough. It’s about tapping into a market segment and creating a meaningful product for a specific audience.

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