Distributing Playdate games to players without a Playdate


I recently created my first game for Playdate and of course I want to tell the world about it. However, most of the world is not in possession of a physical Playdate device which means they cannot play the game.

Of course you might say this is very logical. No Playdate, no ability to play Playdate games. However, I was wondering whether it would be desirable or even legal to do the following:

Is it a solution to point players to the Playdate SDK itself so they can download the Simulator and play any Playdate game that way?
Currently I am not regarding this as a valid option as the SDK License clearly states:

The SDK is made available by Panic to enable the development and testing of games, applications, and other works, designed exclusively to be run on the Playdate handheld gaming system.

However, it seems a shame to not give players the option to try the game if they do not currently have access to a physical Playdate.

Also, a point could be made that distributing a finished game allows for player feedback, which could pass as "testing of games".

If this is a path I should not tread any further on, please correct me. :slight_smile:


this is a good question, especially in the context of production/availability challenges

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I mean it makes sense that they wouldn't allow it because from a business model, it wouldn't make sense unfortunately. The only way Panic is really making money off of this is by selling the console itself. If other users could simply play without a playdate, then why buy one? I totally get where you're coming from though, as a game dev I want everyone to have access to my games. But their SDK their rules. Perhaps down the road they may open it up a little more.


Yes it does make a lot of sense and I can also see that Panic might not want to have tons of games floating around the internet advertising "a Playdate experience" and then you don't actually have the experience playing those games that you would have on the physical device.

Even so, more reach for Playdate games might mean more people getting to know the Playdate or wanting to play their favorite games on a device.

As you said though, their rules. It's good to know there is currently no alternative distribution method. Thanks for your reply. :slight_smile:

That rationale makes sense for sure; that said, I don't consider that post a solution as they don't represent Panic. A direct confirmation on the policy from someone at Panic (cc @willco) just so we can all be clear would be good.

@RedOwlGames presuming this holds, and this isn't a viable way to distribute, you have a couple of options available to you; for lua based games, you can port to love2d with relative ease, and for C based games you can port to SDL2 with relative ease. For pulp games you'd mostly be out of luck, having to just reimplement the game for another platform.

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Sounds like an SDL-like library is in order that implements the Playdate API but builds for other platforms.

A stated policy would be nice, but in practice I don't think anyone will care if your itch page has instruction sections for "Installing on device" and "Running in simulator". Plenty of folks have been buying, playing, and even making games using the simulator while they wait for hardware.

But if you sincerely want your game to have life outside of the small, niche (but growing!) Playdate community, then like the others said I'd consider making a first-class port to other platform(s), making e.g. a Windows version that doesn't use the Playdate SDK at all.

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This would be my thinking too, but I noticed one of the Panic peeps liked the currently marked solution post, which made me unsure, so we should just get an official take.

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Hi RedOwlGames,

The section of the SDK license that you quoted is the closest we have to a policy on this. The intent of the SDK is for dev teams and their associates to develop and test Playdate games, not for end-users to play them. IMHO, general distribution is not "testing" in a good-faith interpretation of the license. :slight_smile:

Obviously, there's no technical reason you couldn't do it, and I doubt we'd go out of our way to stop you. But I would suggest that asking your customers/players to install a suite of dev tools to play your game is a sub-par experience, not to mention things like crank control are not ideal. It's a touchy-feely thing, but my gut feeling is that overall it would undercut the intended Playdate experience, and might even devalue your own work a bit.

But, point taken that it's taking us a while to catch up with demand, so I can understand where you're coming from. So, options...

If your game is Lua based, you might be able to port a significant portion of it to the Love2D runtime without too much extra effort. A C-based game could potentially be ported to SDL, but I suspect that would be a bit trickier.

(This is not a promise of anything, just thinking out loud, but something we could also consider down the road is a dev-licensable desktop runtime for games built to the Playdate API. This would address a lot of the issues for everyone involved. Something for us to chew on.)

Anyway, hope this clears things up in a more-or-less official way!


Yeah, a lot of this comes down to how much of the PlayDate API and unique feature set you use.

e.g. My game (C based) really only uses the API for loading and displaying resources (images & sound) so I could port by just putting some macros in front of those and port the input detection code.

for Lua users, may be worth looking at some of the efforts described here Playbit - a framework for creating cross-platform Playdate games

I agree wholly here, while I don't think people should be blocked from using the simulator, this is a good reason to port; a lot of users just wont bother if extra steps come into play.


It absolutely does! Thanks for the detailed answer!

(and thanks everyone else for chiming in :slight_smile:

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