The Apple Watch turned one year old on Sunday, and Macworld decided to use the device's anniversary as an opportunity to revisit the state of gaming on Apple's first wearable. While the launch of the Apple Watch brought a wave of excitement for users and developers alike, the subsequent months saw a noticeable dive in both buzz-worthy Apple Watch game announcements and user interest, with a few exceptions.
As it was in April 2015, developers still believe that what works best for Apple Watch games are short, "quick-hit experiences" that get users in and out of fun, engaging games before raising their wrist grows tiresome. Everywhere Games CEO Aki Järvilehto, whose company created one of the first popular Apple Watch games, Runeblade [Direct Link], believes that as well as quick bursts of entertainment, wrist-worn games should "grow with the player" over the course of a few days, weeks, and even months.
The company's viewpoint has netted an enthusiastic fanbase who have created detailed wiki pages and generate an active subreddit on Runeblade. According to Everywhere Games' statistics, active players log into the game about 100 times per day. Runeblade crafted a bite-sized RPG experience that's become a model for other Apple Watch games, but another popular blueprint being followed by developers comes from Three Minute Games' interactive fiction experience Lifeline [Direct Link], which puts players in the shoes of the only person who can communicate with a distant, stranded astronaut.
All the same, some developers simply think gaming and the Apple Watch don't mix at all. Indie developer Jacob Williams said it took him essentially one day with the initial watchOS SDK sent to developers ahead of the device's launch to realize that Apple's new wearable was simply never "going to work for gamers." Williams' beliefs underscore a late 2015 and early 2016 largely bereft of flashy, big title Apple Watch games akin to those found in the iOS App Store. A Tiny Game of Pong [Direct Link] developer Matt Wiechec thinks that Apple could be helping in this regard more than it currently is.
“It’s not often that I open the Watch app to check for new apps, and I bet this is the case for a lot of people. There aren’t many new Watch apps that Apple showcases, so each week you check, don’t find anything new, and you slowly build a habit of checking less often,” admits Wiechec. “I think it would be much better if Apple integrated Watch apps directly into the main App Store app; adding a new category for them, adding top charts, but also showcasing them on the Featured page for users who own an Apple Watch.”
Still, most of the developers that spoke with Macworld remain optimistic about the future of gaming on the platform, pointing out that even though it has been a year, that's only one year into the lifespan of an entirely new platform. Nearly all agree that the introduction of native app features in watchOS 2 -- and Apple's upcoming clamp down on any non-native apps -- is perhaps the biggest motivator for high-quality game development on the Apple Watch.
Check out Macworld's full article on Apple Watch gaming, along with a number of developer interviews, right here.