Panic’s Playdate handheld won’t ship until early 2022 due to battery issues

When Panic first launched pre-orders of its adorable little retro-inspired handheld gaming device, Playdate, it expected the first 20,000 units to ship by the end of 2021 — just in time, they hoped, for the holidays. That first batch sold out in under 20 minutes.

Sadly, due to last-minute battery component issues, even those first orders have now slipped back to 2022.

In an update email sent to impacted pre-orderers, Panic writes:

As our first 5,000 finished Playdate units arrived at our warehouse in California for 2021, we began to test a few of them. We quickly became concerned that some of them weren’t giving us the battery life we expected. Playdate’s battery is designed to last a very long time, and always be ready for you, even if not used for a while. But that was not the case: in fact, we found a number of units with batteries so drained, Playdate wouldn’t power on at all — and couldn’t be charged. That’s a battery worst-case scenario.

This quickly turned into a months-long, all-hands-on-deck research stress-ball, and we halted production at the factory.

The conclusion?

We made the difficult, expensive decision to replace all of our existing batteries with brand new ones, from a totally different battery supplier.

Panic goes on to note that they’ve received new batteries and they’re now working as hoped … but shipping everything back to Malaysia, swapping out the batteries and getting them back across the ocean is going to take a while.

Meanwhile, the company also discovered that the CPU it planned to use for all Playdate units shipped in 2022 is now backordered for literal years.

With lots of pre-orders in place, we immediately placed an order at our factory for all the parts needed for 2022 units and beyond. The response was … sobering. Many of our parts have been delayed significantly. In fact, we can’t get any more of Playdate’s current CPU for — you’re not going to believe this — two years. Like, 730 days.

Maybe you’ve heard about the “global chip shortage” everyone’s talking about? We’re here to say it is very real. Covid-19 caused an ever-cascading set of worldwide supply chain failures that are leading to many, many electronic parts being simply … gone.

To work around this, the company has redesigned Playdate’s boards to support a different CPU — one they say is more readily available, but that they don’t expect to impact the way the handheld works in any way that the user might notice.

The full text of Panic’s delay announcement is available here.

The company says that although units one through 20,000 have slipped into 2022, they don’t currently expect orders placed thus far to slip into 2023.

As always, hardware is hard. Add a pandemic to the mix, and, well….