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Gaming on Apple Watch: What’s New is Old Again

Gamingtodaynews1f - Gaming on Apple Watch: What's New is Old Again

Hello Everyone. Today I want to talk about gaming on Apple Watch, what challenges it poses and its potential niche. The Watch itself isn’t particularly suited for gaming but I feel it would be an interesting discussion on its merits regardless

Let's talk about the hardware and features of an Apple Watch and how some games have used them.

-Small Touch Screen and Pressure sensors:

Unlike smartphones, the watch's touchscreen is very small. This limits what can be touched, your fingers will obscure more of the screen and multi-touch isn't feasible. One interesting feature is the screen's pressure sensor which is most commonly used as a pause/options screen in Watch games.

Most of the better games that use the touchscreen primarily are old school "whack a mole" type games. Guns & Bottles asks the player to alternate which side of the screen to tap to shoot bottles and thus working around the limitations of the screen.

Some bad examples include Loop which asks the player to precisely tap very small pieces to move them which can be quite frustrating as you'll end up moving other pieces


The watch has a rotatable crown normally used for scrolling and zooming out. I haven't seen any app combine both the touch screen and crown at once for any input but I imagine it could be possible if unwieldy.

A good example of a game that uses the crown is "break the safe" where you rotate the crown to crack a safe.

-Relatively Low Storage and Processing Power

The watch ain't pushing polygons nor does it have the room to. So most games are going to have to be simple 2D stuff. There are some cool uses like Crisis Line presenting a story through text messages so Text Based RPGs are possible. Though some like Mindkeeper have managed to make a small 3D First Person Horror type experience at less than 200 MB. But for the most part, games will probably be reminiscent of all Java Phone games.

-Connection with an iPhone

Your iPhone can connect with your watch via Bluetooth. Most regular apps use this to send notifications and some data across devices. For games, I feel the best use of this would be as a way to complement your phone game. Because some games, like the one Square Enix made for Watch, pretty much requires you use your phone alongside your watch which defeats the purpose of playing on your watch if I have to play on Phone. Others, like 8 Bit Pets let you interact with your pets on your watch to quickly top them up while your Phone gives you all the details. I'm imagining games with a dynamic like the Pokewalker from Pokemon Heartgold/Soulsilver could work here. Imagine an RPG on your phone where you can do some basic missions from your watch.

-Health and Fitness

Apple Watches can track the user's movements, heart rate and breathing. Normally this is used with fitness apps. However, this does have some potential to be used with games. Remember that Zombie Run app for phones? It was a game/fitness app where the user would have to go out for a run in the real world and be warned to run faster if zombies in the game were chasing him, and the more you travelled the more loot you would find. The Apple Watch could adapt this as a watch is much less cumbersome to pull out when running than simply glancing at your wrist.


The Watch can also track the user’s sleeping patterns but somehow I doubt that can make for compelling gameplay.


This is an odd one. The Apple Watch is capable of outputting audio and has a microphone. But 99% of apps demand you use your Bluetooth earphones to listen to anything. While there are uses for this, there was an iPhone Horror game that required the user wear headphones, close their eyes and rotate around in the real world, such a setup seems overkill for the watch. I don’t expect many games will make use of this. Also, while watches can connect with and allow users to talk with other watch users, I doubt multiplayer is possible to be anything more than a momentary gimmick.

So we’ve covered the Watch’s hardware. Based on all this, I believe the best games for the watch would be the ones that take advantage of its niche. You can access your watch easily and in more scenarios than your phone, like how your phone can access more situations than your console/PC. You can pull out your watch or your phone when you're waiting for an appointment or on the bus or whatever. This does mean that much of the watch’s uses are redundant. Regardless, this has its place. Suppose you’re waiting for a date to show up. You can quickly play a round of Guns & Bottles on your watch to waste some time like those old Java Phone games. This is why many of the best Watch Games tend to be puzzle games like Tiny Armies. They check every box: They are adapted for the small screen, they’re great for those times when you’re waiting for something. Their puzzle-like nature also means you can cram lots of different levels with little space and much of the gameplay is in the player’s heads as they figure out the solution.

With that said, here are some of my pitches/notes for Watch Games and genres that I think suit it.

-Endless Runners

Pretty simple. The player has limited inputs and has to react quickly. Good for quick bursts when needed.

-Angry Birds

The simplistic visuals mean it won’t bloat on space. There aren’t many inputs at once and the puzzle like nature suits it in bursts. One issue would be seeing everything on screen at once so the game would have to offer the ability to not immediately release your throw

-Text Based RPGs

As stated earlier, this is a possible avenue. I'm picturing the iPhone game Treacherous Trials, that plays like a simplified version of DnD and a Survival in text form, as a template for this.

-Idle/Incremental Games

There are such games on watch like Runeblade which combines it with a mini-RPG. But These types of games, you progress when you’re not playing it and when you start playing it, you get a boost. I can imagine games like a simplified version of Fallout Shelter where you’re building up a settlement as a suitable game.

-Board games and similar games

There are already checkers, chess, 2048 and a version of pictionary on Watch. Many of which allow for multiplayer on one watch. Expanding on this, I can imagine games like Connect 4, Uno, Battleship, Hangman, Sudoku, Polysphere, Worms, Solitaire, Dots and Boxes, Minesweeper, Jenga, Smash Hit could work on the Watch.

So there you have it. What are your thoughts?

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