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Apple Watch gaming: Devs talk early titles and the challenges of wearable fun

Andrew Hayward | April 24, 2015
We've been bombarded by the images and ideas of the Apple Watch transforming the way we communicate and use apps in our daily lives, whether it's receiving notifications on our wrists, paying for coffee, or interacting with loved ones. So much emphasis has been put on the Apple Watch as an essential part of our everyday routine, yet for many of us, there's something we do all the time on our phones that has barely been shown in marketing materials: Play games.

We've been bombarded by the images and ideas of the Apple Watch transforming the way we communicate and use apps in our daily lives, whether it's receiving notifications on our wrists, paying for coffee, or interacting with loved ones. So much emphasis has been put on the Apple Watch as an essential part of our everyday routine, yet for many of us, there's something we do all the time on our phones that has barely been shown in marketing materials: Play games.

Yes, games: Of course there will be games for the Apple Watch, and from our conversations with creators, developers are excited about the opportunity to develop for a wearable device. "Entertainment apps are important in addition to utilitarian ones, reminding users that the device is fun as well as functional," says Mathieu Nouzareth, co-founder and CEO of FreshPlanet, which is bringing iOS puzzler BoxPop to Apple Watch.

Having a small screen strapped to players at all times offers new scenarios for portable gaming. But as with any new platform — notably one that isn't yet available for purchase — there are also challenges, which range from designing for a different kind of device to actually getting hands on the hardware to test out ideas. 

First steps

When the Apple Watch starts reaching buyers on Friday, it sounds like they'll have a solid handful of games to choose from at first. And by and large, many of those games will be reconfigured versions of existing iPhone games, trimmed and tweaked to not only fit on a much smaller screen, but also to fit gameplay into more compact windows of time during the day. 

It's little surprise that existing games will be the biggest initial focus for Apple Watch developers — after all, smartwatches with crisp, color screens and ample processing power are still relatively new. While Google-powered Android Wear devices have been on the market for several months, games haven't flourished. To many developers, the Apple Watch will be their first foray into wearable gaming — and without the Watch on the market, it's surely tricky to dream up original ideas without that innate sense of how the device fits into (and affects) daily life.

One of the familiar games that'll be there on April 24 is free-to-play smash Trivia Crack, which will be scaled down to work on the Watch, letting you choose answers to pop culture queries with ease. Another is Hatchi, which brings the Tamagotchi-inspired virtual pet simulator to your wrist — but in that case, it's more of a companion app for the iOS game rather than a full-fledged experience. And word game Letterpad from NimbleBit (Tiny Tower) was originally conceived for iPhone, but it'll release simultaneously for iOS devices and Apple Watch.

 

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