Apple Watch gaming one year in: Developers speak out – Macworld

6 months ago Comments Off on Apple Watch gaming one year in: Developers speak out – Macworld

One year ago, just before the release of the Apple Watch, we spoke to several game developers about the coming future of wrist-based wearable gaming. All of them were excited, but some were uncertain of what was ahead—in part because some were developing for a smartwatch they’d never worn, and a device that wasn’t quite like any other before it.

Now, as the Apple Watch nears a full year on the market, we’re taking another look at gaming on the device, this time with a lot more experience. We’ve played hours of wearable games, tapping and swiping through tiny narratives or battling fantasy monsters, and we’ve watched as the initial enthusiasm and intrigue around wearable gaming quieted considerably. 

Talking with developers again today—some of whom we spoke with last year, along with others—there’s still excitement about the Apple Watch gaming market today and ahead. But there’s still uncertainty, this time over whether players are going to embrace wearable gaming like they did smartphone games, if developers will push hard enough with new ideas, and if/when Apple will shine more of a spotlight on their creations. 

What works 

Back when the Apple Watch was about to be released, many developers trusted Apple’s suggestions that players would want quick-hit experiences that last only seconds at a time. And any of us who have played Apple Watch games can safely say that’s a smart idea: It’s not comfortable to hold your arm up for lengthy sessions. You might as well grab your iPhone for a richer, fuller experience.

watch gaming1yr runeblade

Runeblade condenses an RPG epic into tiny morsels, and it has some seriously die-hard fans.

“Smartwatch games are very, very different from mobile games,” asserts Aki Järvilehto, and he should know: he’s the CEO and president of Everywear Games, a company founded solely to make wearable games. Everywear made a nice splash with bite-sized role-player Runeblade at the Apple Watch’s launch, and it has continued to be a standout option for the Watch. Since then, the company has launched another Apple Watch game, Time Unit

“They’re glance-based entertainment and are highly accessible,” he continues. “Well-designed smartwatch games turn these lightning-fast game sessions into experiences that grow with the player through days, weeks, and months, and they can be tremendously compelling in their nature.” 

Despite the streamlined approach and smaller scale, Runeblade has proven to be surprisingly addictive: It has a solidly active subreddit, and fans have built a Wikia compendium about the experience. Järvilehto says their most active players log more than 100 play sessions per day in those compact bursts, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense on any other kind of device.

But that’s the extreme case—and on the opposite end, some players just don’t see the value in playing a game on a tiny, wearable screen when an iPhone is inevitably in range. Some creators agree, too: We heard from Jacob Williams, a 10-year indie developer who has recently worked on a game called Fortune Fighters for Mac and PC, and who develops mobile and cloud apps for the trucking industry as his day job. 

Apple Watch gaming one year in: Developers speak out – Macworld