This New Gaming Handheld Has a Crank (!!) And Looks Cool as Hell

A few days back, I received an email with an entirely preposterous pitch: Panic, a developer mostly known for making specialized Mac software (they also funded Firewatch), was going to make a gaming handheld built around a “season” of games kept secret until they unlock on the device. That’s not even the wildest part: this handheld features a black-and-white (what) screen, a d-pad, two buttons, and a completely different way to interact with games: a crank.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/j5wdep/this-new-gaming-handheld-has-a-crank-and-looks-cool-as-hell
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As somebody who has used and appreciated Panic’s FTP software on the Mac for years and years and always appreciated their high sense of design and attention to detail I have to say their pivot to include gaming has been really fun to see.

(Also I work down the block from them and their office has a light-up sign on it that you can adjust the colors of from a web site, in real-time, so if you’re ever in PDX check that out because it’s pretty dang cool.)

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This is just delightful. It looks like a floppy disk! Pretty impressive list of designers too.
It reminds me of my friend in high school who had a Gameboy Micro. We all thought he was silly playing on a screen so small, but I think about that micro a lot nowadays… And they’re collectors items now too!

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They had me at “premium black-and-white screen.”

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This is weird as hell and I’m down for it. Anything handheld has my attention, since my formative Gamer years were focused on the good ol’ Game Boy line. The crank seems preposterous at first, but I can already think of a number of mechanics that could use it organically.

Now just put MMBN on it.

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Might Mutant Binja Nurtles?
*googles
Oh yeah! Mega Man Battle Network! Forgot about that one.

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$150??? I’m sorry, are they out of their minds? Who would ever pay that for this thing?

Like it looks cool and could have maybe some relevance as like a little toy stocking stuffer that you play around with at a family Christmas Party and then forget about after like a week. But that price point is about $100 more than I would ever consider paying for this thing.

Do you have to pay for the games too?

Key to the device is the season of games—12 in total—that arrive over the course of three months, one game per week. You don’t have to pay extra for them

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With that lineup, I could definitely see this being a hit with a certain audience (this one for instance). Devs, critics, and people just interested in games as a medium. A limited run is smart.

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If I have the money on hand when they open up pre-orders on this I might think about it but… for where I’m at in my life I usually don’t have that kind of money just laying around.

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If it’s offered in Canada I’m totally getting it. While the price seems a bit steep, it definitely doesn’t feel like price gouging. You’re getting 12 new games from famous developers plus hardware that looks like a premium art piece despite its modest specs. Plus a production run that sounds like it can’t take advantage of economies of scale. It actually seems like a decent deal without counting the fun of discovery and being part of a zeitgeist from week-to-week.

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That’s well out of my price range for this as well, but I imagine the demographic they’re really going for is more than willing to pay this price and they’re betting there’s enough of those people to not lose their homes on this.
When I see something priced like this I imagine that the math was done to say they can’t produce enough units to price it any lower. If this was $100 or even $50 I’m still not sure I’d ever pull the trigger on something I know I’m going to get an hour of enjoyment out of and then feel really bad about giving away in five or six years when I find it during spring cleaning. I’m willing to bet that a lot of the people saying this is too expensive also fit into that camp, so price this thing as high as you can to cover production costs.

I love this idea. I want gaming to get…weird again. They have my money the moment they let me give it to them.

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I’ve participated in discussions on various Discord servers over this and I’m critical of the whole idea. Sure, it’s a nice proof of concept for sleek product design, the line-up of creators looks nice, and the whole “going against the grain” thing hardware-wise (no backlight, low resolution, etc. without a “retro” model to base these decisions off) is an interesting choice. Still, it’ll probably end up on the trash pile quickly due to its (apparently?) closed system and novelty approach that probably won’t get them enough money to finance a second season of games and keep this relevant. So the hype is baffling to me. I like the distribution concept though and good on everyone who’s looking forward to it.

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I feel like limited run & closed system are what makes this a viable thing at all. If those games are eventually available on pc (or whatever) only people with money to burn would bother, but as it is you’ve a reasonable shot at appreciating collector’s value.

god I want this silly thing so bad

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Whoops, apparently it’s not a closed system at all. According to someone who spoke with Panic (unconfirmed though), you can run your own stuff on the device no problem and Lua / C SDKs are apparently readily available for everyone interested in them. Interesting choice.

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If I can get my hand on this thing here in Norway - I’ll get one :slight_smile: If it’s easy to develop for, it could be a fun platform for small, weird indies!

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I don’t want to be too much of a downer, because it is a cool idea, but I have feelings about this being super limited and also inaccessible to people with certain physical disabilities, and both of those things just make me feel really eh about an idea that seems very good.

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I’m very interested in the concept of making short-run little devices with odd control methods, and having this sort of games distribution method that allows devs to make small experimental projects on it. It reminds me of the alt.games spaces at events like GDC.

I don’t mind the price since this is very much a device you’ll get your fill of relatively quickly, then pass off to someone else once you’re done.

One sour note though, there seem to be very little diversity with the initial slate of games creators. It’s something that they could remedy with the subsequent game “seasons”, but it’s still a bad look.

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