At its "Spring Forward" event, Apple showed off how some of the most popular apps will look on its upcoming smartwatch. But there was one category that was conspicuously absent: games. Despite being the most popular (and top-grossing) category in the App Store, not a single game was shown during the event. We already know that there are games in the works for the Apple Watch, but when the device launches next month, don't expect it to be packed full of your favorite iPhone time-wasters.
No fancy graphics or complicated controls
The culprit is the Apple Watch's dependency on your smartphone. On its own, it can't do much: instead, it sends information back to your iPhone, which does most of the heavy lifting. That makes it great for requesting an Uber ride or sending a sticker in WeChat, but not so much for running the next Infinity Blade. "The actual device doesn't do much calculation at all," one developer told The Verge. WatchKit lets you build a simple interface and some limited interactions, but not much else — you can’t have fancy graphics or many complicated controls.
One of the first games we know about is Letterpad, a word game from Tiny Tower studio Nimblebit that’s also slated to hit iOS some time in early 2015. "Apple Watch support in Letterpad will allow people to chip away at a puzzle right from their wrist whenever they have a free moment, without ever having to touch their phone," says Nimblebit’s Ian Marsh. "Players will also receive notifications on their watches when a friend has created a new puzzle and even get the chance to be the first to solve it right from their watch."
Based on a video of the game, Letterpad’s Watch interface is incredibly simple, and the same is true of the few other games we know about, like the trivia game Elemental. Both games are also tied to iPhone counterparts. Likewise, the iPhone version of Tamagotchi-like Hatchi will receive an update so that you can check in on your virtual pet from your wrist.
That's not to say that other kinds of games aren't coming to the Apple Watch — it’ll just take some time. When the iPhone launched in 2007 it didn't even have an App Store; flash forward to 2014 and some of the best games of the year were developed for iOS, while apps for the platform generated $15 billion in sales. Apple Watch games might not reach the same scale, but they're definitely coming.
However, just as game developers had to create brand new ideas to conform with the touch-only interface of the iPhone, it's likely we'll see entirely new gaming concepts for the Watch — much more than just word and trivia games. With its focus on fitness tracking, we could see more unique games like Zombies, Run, while its small screen and simple controls to could lead to games that last for seconds, instead of minutes. Or maybe it will just be a sweet controller for some cool new iPhone games.
The real question is when these games will come out and what they’ll look like, though it likely won’t be long before we find out — the Apple Watch launches on April 24th, and games are sure to follow.