The Apple Watch has been available for almost a decade. And while there have since been additional models, Series 0 revisions, and regular watchOS updates, there’s one thing it hasn’t quite gained a foothold in yet – gaming.
The challenges are clear, of course – with a display so small, how do you build a game for it? Input options are somewhat limited, too, with the touch screen and the Digital Crown pretty much the only ways to interact with it.
We can also paraphrase the question Jurassic Park has long posed – if we’re so preoccupied with whether or not we could run games on the Apple Watch, did we ever stop to think about whether we should? After all, who really wants to play games on their wrist? As it happens, I believe there’s potential there.
Include the Watch as you play
Many of you reading this have likely played a game on your iPhone at some point. Whether it’s a few rounds of Marvel Snap on the commute, hunting some Pokémon in Pokémon Go, or simply enjoying the serotonin boost of a Candy Crush level, we’ve all been there.
With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, Apple made a big point to showcase console-quality games running on the latest A17 Pro chips. From Resident Evil 4 to Assassin’s Creed Mirage, there’s a lot to be excited about.
So, how does this factor into the watch? I’m thinking, of course, about companion apps. Back in 2013, at the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 generations, it felt like everyone was pushing second-screen experiences.
Some have remained popular, like the EA FC companion app on iPhone, whereas others, including Battlefield 4’s map view on an iPad that lets you boss your friends around, have fallen by the wayside. Even before that, we saw the PSP able to connect to a PS3, or a GameBoy Advance connected to the GameCube.
Apple has tried this in the past, too. Back in the early days of the Apple Watch, Pokémon Go offered a companion app that felt like a glimpse into a future where we’d spin Pokéstops on our wrists and barely need to pull out our phones again.
Sadly, the app was removed in July 2019, and nothing has really come of it since, but there’s still plenty of potential untapped in the idea.
Low health, need Apple
Even some of the best games on iPhone feel a little cluttered, visually, with touch controls everywhere you look.
It’s a little “pie in the sky”, but imagine being able to play Assassin’s Creed Mirage or Resident Evil 4 Remake and track your health or ammo on your watch. Imagine playing Genshin Impact and being able to manage your current character with a tap, freeing up a little of the screen.
It could even add to the immersion, with subtle tap backs when firing your weapon, making games feel more real than ever.
With renowned gaming auteur Hideo Kojima now promising Mac support for the likes of Death Stranding, there’s always the chance the man who had us switching memory cards to defeat Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid back in 1997 could have us glancing at our watches for some kind of metagame tomfoolery.
It’s highly unlikely for a game that came out in 2019, but imagine Death Stranding on Mac being able to talk to your Apple Watch about the kind of terrain its protagonist is walking on, or tying in with a fun minigame for when you’re away from your machine.
It’s all hypothetical, of course, and the Apple Watch will always be a fitness tracker first with little room for whimsy these days. But we can’t help but hope there’s some mad idea somewhere in Apple to make it something more.