‘True crime’: Indie handheld Playdate loses $400,000 worth of consoles

Playdate is an odd little handheld machine that offers a simple way to play interesting indie games, though it has gone through its fair share of production issues. Now major property loss can be added to that list of problems, as more than $400,000 worth of merchandise has seemingly gone missing. 

During a panel about the Playdate held at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on March 22, Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser noted the company had two pallets full of the near $200 handheld go missing in transit. “It’s a bit of a true crime drama,” Sasser said, according to a report from Stephen Totilo’s Game File.

Playdate console on display.
Playdate is a unique type of success. Image via Panic

Sasser noted the company came up short on inventory levels during a recent check and contacted the shipping center responsible for handling Playdate orders. The operators at the facility claimed that FedEx listed the two pallets as delivered but left the shipper with “no trace of them” until two weeks later when two pallets of Playdate consoles appeared at a construction site near the warehouse. “And they sent an amazing picture of two pallets of Playdates just sitting where they’re building a Circle K in north Las Vegas,” Sasser said. 

According to Sasser, via GameFile, four pallets went missing initially but two have been recovered. It has also been confirmed the person who signed for the delivery of the two recovered pallets is also the same individual who signed for the two that remain at large with “a lot of research” going on regarding the situation. 

Additionally, seven Playdates with serial numbers tied to missing units have conveniently been registered to people living in north Las Vegas. “So anyways, I’ll keep you posted—or legally not keep you posted—depending on where this goes,” Sasser said. 

This is the latest sage for the indie handheld that’s defined by a mechanical hand crank and black-and-white screen, which has faced delays and shipment problems since it was originally revealed in 2019 and launched in April 2022. Panic reported more than 70,000 Playdates have been sold as of Feb. 13 and more games outside of first-party content continue to be released for the console through its Catalog shop. 

Sasser also seemed to confirm the Playdate is not profitable despite making “respectable amounts of money” for Panic. The goal for the company is to turn that around while also continuing its other operations, such as project development and publishing indie titles—with previous big hitters like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game.

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