Steve Barnes' World of Happiness

An approved side-nod to Panic.

If any company depends on ignoring the advice "don't panic" to survive by definition, it's Panic.

Founded in Portland by Cabel Sasser and Steven Frank in 1997, they've been in the Mac software game longer than most. They're historically known for apps like Audion, Transmit, and Coda (a popular Mac web editor last decade), but I'm guessing their biggest splash into general awareness came through their game projects, particularly as the publisher of Untitled Goose Game.

The company's work is marked by certain irregular yet somehow consistent signature aesthetic preferences, which you'll start to pick up if you visit their main site. They seem to follow their fancy, create what they like, create it faithfully for Apple platforms, commit to what they decide, try to do right by their customers when they change course, and continue to survive this way. I've heard Apple was interested in acquiring them in the early 2000s, but Panic decided to retain their identity by retaining their independence.

They've just opened pre-orders for their first handheld console, which they call PlayDate, clearly a distant spiritual descendent of the Game Boy with Panic's soul injected, along with some philosophical distinctions: a "season" of games arrives over several weeks after you receive it, the physical crank is a control input used by some games, and each unit is also a developer unit, for which I believe Panic will provide both a full-fledged developer kit and a higher-level engine for non-programmers to create simple adventure games of their own.

I think I'm writing about Panic now because, while I've never found myself enticed by their aesthetic choices, I find myself inspired by their will to do what they like so relentlessly. It's larger than two people now, but it's still a small company, and independently launching a modern game console product like the PlayDate is no task for even the slightly faint of heart. They've been working on it for ages, and the current episode of their company podcast – smacking equally of their style – tells the full story over a good hour or two. I enjoyed listening to this and wanted to recommend it.