When the Apple Watch was announced, its creators touted its potential for expanding communication, health tracking, navigation and more. But what wasn’t mentioned was its potential impact on gaming.
Gaming may not be an obvious vertical for wearables due to the small screen size, but there are certainly fun ideas that the always-with-you technology presents. And while we know Apple’s smartwatch is already entering a crowded field of similar devices, its announcement Tuesday was one many in the tech community had been anticipating for years and will undoubtedly signal an uptick in app development.
So what kinds of games could an Apple Watch, or any smartwatch owner, enjoy? We brainstormed some of the best possible ideas that would work within the hardware’s restrictions. Hope you’re listening, game creators.
1. NFC-based games that react when another user is nearby
With the Apple Watch’s added near-field communication, there are plenty of options for communication between watch owners, or even NFC-enabled spots. This idea is admittedly cribbed from Nintendo, simply because the 3DS handheld has done a dynamite job of giving players multiple positive experiences when they pass near another 3DS user, even if they aren’t aware of it.
Nintendo has done this both with 3DS Streetpass games, where encountering other players helps you fill in a puzzle with pieces they provide, or with features in specific titles. Passing by another player who also owned Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds deposited their shadow in your game world, and winning a battle against them gave you loot.
Imagine a game where your carefully leveled warrior battled any other Apple Watch warrior it came into contact with, and you could see how they did at the end of the day. Or a game that gave you new levels based on how many other users you encountered that day. These make up just the tip of the iceberg, but the addition of NFC can add a lot of creative opportunities for gaming.
2. Don’t you miss your virtual pets of the 1990s?
Back in the 1990s, Tamagotchis, Neopets and all their ilk ruled our lives, with their need to be fed, inoculated and cleaned up after constantly. Though Tamagotchi has had a resurgence as an app, it’s natural home is easily a smartwatch, where it can be attended to more quickly. And though the Apple Watch has a much more advanced screen than the pixelated LCD screen, it certainly couldn’t hurt to leave these monsters with the same boxy charm.
3. Simple games that utilize the Digital Crown
As Apple’s team demonstrated on stage, having to access the touch screen a lot is difficult on a watch face because your fingers obscure your view. So it added a Digital Crown to allow users to scroll and zoom through information. That means the games can’t rely too much on touch controls, and instead need to utilize the crown’s rotation for activities. So something simple with one-touch controls would be perfect.
Good examples would be side-scrolling endless runners such as Jetpack Joyride or Canabalt, or even the simple madness of a game such as Flappy Bird. As long as the mechanics are simple, the wearable appeal of a short game that can be picked up and put away during downtime is an obvious one.
4. Gamification of your activity
Gamification is a term that is beyond overused, but with the robust fitness tracking on the Apple Watch, it might experience a new life. For some, exercising toward a goal or purpose tracked in a game is bigger motivation, especially if it’s more creative than just adding points to a number. Look at the mobile app Zombies, Run!, which gamifies running by implying you’ll have to go just a bit faster to escape the flesh-eating hordes chasing you.
If running while wearing your Apple Watch unlocked new worlds to explore in a game, or new equipment, it could be more motivational. What about a game where climbing more stairs than your friends meant your virtual army was able to overtake theirs? There are a lot of creative potential applications, especially when you tie to the experience to the phone.
5. Managing your mobile games
Anyone who has played a freemium game such as FarmVille or Clash of Clans knows how those games operate. Instead of putting in money, they ask for your time. A lot of time, since you have to constantly check in, or risk missing the benefit of your newly generated energy critical for completing tasks. Freemium games only allow a certain number of actions before you’re “tired”, and players must wait for their energy to replenish or purchase more.
So for those sucked deep into the free-to-play spiral, a quick way to interface with game via your Apple Watch might save time, especially if they can queue up tasks on their wrist instead of pulling out a phone. And then nobody can judge you for still playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
Got any game ideas we missed? Share them in the comments below.