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10 Sep 2014

Should You Develop Indie Games For The Apple Watch?

In a short answer – yes. While it’s doubtful we are going to see an explosion of games developed solely for the Apple Watch in the same way that we saw games developed for iOS and Android years ago (although I could very well eat those words sooner than later), the Apple Watch is still a new platform. But it isn’t a traditional platform, as the  Apple Watch relies on current iDevices to work. Thus, your iDevice must be tethered to the Apple Watch in order to work properly. It’s an odd prerequisite to be sure – and one none of us are used to – but make no mistake: the Apple Watch is a platform worth keeping your eyes on.

The interesting thing about developing games for the Apple Watch is that because of the device’s limitations (i.e. small screen, awkwardness of playing Angry Birds while wearing the watch), indie developers are going to have to approach the Apple Watch differently. Instead of developing games that require the player to tap on the screen in order to play, there is going to have to be more of a focus on using the Apple Watch’s accelerometer to play.

It’s the idea behind the Apple Watch’s first game, iArm Wrestle Champs – a game that uses the accelerometer to determine the player’s ability to arm wrestle friends. Now, it’s easier to just arm wrestle your friends without an Apple Watch, but that’s beside the point: iArm Wrestle Champs is using the Apple Watch platform to provide a unique, arm wrestling experience.

Take a look at the dial on the image above. Polygon wrote an article yesterday halfway joking that the Apple Watch would be perfect for games like Pong, and I agree. Can you imagine how awesome it could be to play an updated version of Pong on your Apple Watch via Bluetooth or by facing other players online? Breakout would be another classic that would work perfectly with the Apple Watch. The dial, as limiting as it may seem for controlling games, could very well introduce new game concepts that we haven’t seen on a mobile device before. Besides, when was the last time you used a dial to control a game? Over 30 years ago?

Here’s another look at a game that could certainly be implemented into the Apple Watch: Johann Sebastian Joust. For those unfamiliar, J.S. Joust has no graphics whatsoever – perfect for the Apple Watch. Instead, the game revolves around players staying in a digital space while using motion controllers (which the Apple Watch’s accelerometer would be perfect for). J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos players in the background, and when the music slows down? The controllers become sensitive to movement, meaning players have to stay in the digital space and creep around in it slowly to avoid being removed from the game. Once the music begins to speed up, the digital space is less strict, allowing players to dash at opponents and move the controller out of the digital space. Once it’s removed out of the space, the player is out. The last person remaining is then declared the winner. An absolutely perfect game for the Apple Watch, right?

It’s these types of games – these out-of-the-box experiences – that could make the Apple Watch an exciting platform for game development. It isn’t going to become the hottest platform to develop games (my opinion), but the potential for awesome, unique games is certainly there. What does the future hold for Apple Watch (and other smartwatches like it)? Who knows. There is a lot of room to experiment with what types of games work on the Apple Watch and which ones do not, making the Apple Watch an exciting, upcoming platform – and my dear indie developer, you need to consider being part of it!

2 Responses

    1. That’s tricky. The Samsung watch is only compatible with Samsung devices, and while they’re some of the most popular Android-powered devices, you would be excluding a large portion of your possible audience. On the flipside, (and I may be wrong on this), but it seems to me that you won’t have a lot of competition (at least initially) if you release a game designed for the Samsung watch since I doubt many devs are developing games for it. If it was me, I would eventually release a game for the Samsung watch if it’s feasible to do so (i.e. you’re not going to lose a lot of money by testing the waters).

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