Smartwatches: The Next Big Thing In Mobile Gaming

Wearable technology used to be just a fantasy featured in science-fiction movies; however, it is now rapidly becoming a reality. Smartwatches’ screens are four times smaller than smartphones and undoubtedly it has some heavy limitations. But despite the fact that smartwatches are still a fairly new category, game designer Will Luton believes smartwatches could be bigger than mobile. He thinks that gameplay is going to dominate wearables as it is a viable and an ideal platform for ambient and pervasive games.

Mobile phones, tablets and even phablets already have an insane number of applications. But unlike these devices, you may only use their respective apps by fishing them out of your pocket unlike smartwatches that are essentially always in view. Having said so, could smartwatches be an ideal platform for mobile gaming?

Wearables as a potential platform for mobile gaming
Compared to their mobile counterparts, smartwatches have tiny screens and some constraints, yet game developers apparently haven’t rolled out an enthralling gaming app despite the slew of new smartwatches being launched in the last couple of years. But this may drastically change after Apple unveiled its Watch wearable device.

Among the many companies, Electronic Arts (EA), one of the largest game developers in the world, confirmed their interest on developing games for wearables specifically the Apple Watch. In an interview with CNET, EA expressed that they see this particular smartwatch as a way to get a foothold in the newest gaming platform. According to them, they have been experimenting with prototype designs to create gaming apps to suit smartwatches.

Even though the interest in gaming on the smartwatches hasn’t gained much of a following so far, EA sees high potential in the experiences that these type of wearable can provide particularly its fitness tracking component that can unlock capabilities in a game. Aside from that, mobile gaming for smartwatches is a good opportunity to increase their revenues. Based on the research firm, Gartner, they expect global profits from mobile games to double from $13.2 billion in 2013 to $22 billion next year. In relation to this, global smartwatch shipment is expected to boost from 4 million in 2013 to 330 million by 2018 according to ON World research firm.

While it is still in its infancy, the probability that Apple Watch and other smartwatches alike can possibly be linked to mobile gaming, there’s a high chance that there would be a growing demand from mainstream consumers to buy smartwatches.

The real breakthrough in wearable gaming
Samsung Gear 2, Sony SmartWatch 3, Pebble and other wearable technology have been around for some time and there have been a collection of apps developed for it. And surprisingly, with the release of Android Wear, a bunch of mobile developers already built a solid number of gaming apps to play on this platform. The first one to hit the smartwatch is an app called Flopsy Droid, a knockoff of the popular and addictive mobile game Flappy Bird. The only difference of it from the original version is that instead of a bird, Google’s Droid mascot is flying to the pipe obstacles.

Moreover, there are actually other game titles that you can play in the tiny screen that’s strapped to your wrist, and most of it requires simple swiping and tapping. To exemplify, you could take a spin of Castle Stormer ($1), an app where you control a knight to dodge enemies while running up the surface of a castle. You may also want to try out Reversi for Wear (free) where you take turns in placing colored disks on a board, with the goal of capturing your enemy’s disks by surrounding them. TetroCrate (free) on the other hand, has a cool twist on Tetris where you must navigate the blocks into a row and get rid of them before filling up the screen. These apps require simple gameplay but are really addictive; however, there are still a lot of improvements needed in terms of interface design and performance. But one thing’s for sure, Apple Watch and other smartwatches represent an appealing opportunity for mobile games.

Smartwatches to redefine mobile gaming
With games constantly being released in the app market on both iOS and Android, it wouldn’t be a surprise that more developers will eventually embark on creating games for smartwatches.

However, the biggest challenge for developers is the tiny screen of smartwatches. Hence, games must accordingly rely more on motion sensors than the touchscreen and display. Other than that, developers may opt to utilize smartwatches as motion-sensing controller for smartphone or tablet games where users may tilt their wrist left or right. Nonetheless, the biggest opportunity for smartwacthes to be linked with mobile games is its health-tracking feature which can be improved further to compliment with any games.

Indeed, the future of wearable gaming depends on the further developments of the smartwatches. However, Chris Bennett, an award-winning game designer and Stanford lecturer, already perceived smartwatches to emerge as a gaming platform. According to him, “Just think of how wearing a gaming device that is less conspicuous than a visor and more accessible than a mobile phone will change the way we work and play.”

@WrittenbyJenni exclusively for Mozbot.

Jenni Birch