From arcade games to consoles, computers to Game Boys, and smartphones to tablets, gaming and, therefore, game development has evolved rapidly over the last three decades. As technology has continued to expand, so has the world of development and possibilities for creatives in the industry. Yet, while cell phones are seemingly getting larger, with a desire for more visual space from consumers, another much, much smaller platform is on the horizon, providing an additional though exciting challenge for developers: the smartwatch.
While some publications like TechRadar.com have traced the history of the smartwatch to the early 1980s–with Seiko’s Pulsar NL C01, which could be connected to a printer and included a memory cartridge slot–the devices of yesteryear were not nearly as advanced as what is available to consumers now, mostly because of technological advances, like bluetooth and wireless connectivity, some 30 years later. In fact, up until very recently, the popularity and overall necessity of such a device was uncertain. Yet, with Apple selling 6 million of the devices since its release earlier this year, and with expectations to double that number with 4th quarter holiday sales, eyes are on the smartwatch as the next big (figuratively speaking, of course) thing.
Aki Järvilehto, CEO and founder of Everywear Games, personally believes that the smartwatch is the ideal gaming platform. Speaking about the Apple Watch, specifically, he said the smartwatch will change the development world for the following reasons: “They’re always available and will get you in the game in seconds, much faster than any other platform. We are already seeing a frequency of use among our players that is simply unprecedented in games.” And unlike other platforms, games are shorter, more simple, or what Järvilehto has called “Twitter-sized” entertainment, making games on the device possibly more addictive, resulting in more frequent use.
Not everyone is sold on smartwatch gaming, however. Some of the caution has been attributed to the difficulty for developers to manage advertising and for the lack of interest in paid games, in comparison to other platforms, at present. Nevertheless, experts suggest that dismissing the idea altogether could be a mistake, considering that shifts in gaming have been consistent with almost every new invention, using the fact that mobile gaming has exceeded desktop gaming in popularity, as an example.
Another factor for developers to consider is the decline in growth in mobile gaming revenue. Recent datashows that revenue of six popular mobile gaming companies grew a combined 1 percent in the second quarter of 2015, in stark contrast to the rapid growth in years prior, signaling that the market is at maturity. Research analyst and CFO for Zynga Asia suggests that what could save the industry is development in untapped markets and “unexplored territories.”
At any rate, smartwatch gaming is relatively new, so skepticism is natural. However, all signs point to continued growth and advancement. As with anything else, those who get there first will have some advantages and will likely be first to see the benefits. It’s too early to tell whether the platform will be as large as, say, cell phones or desktop; however, there is growth and that deserves some consideration.