Playing Pong On Your Watch…and Why It’s the Future of Gaming
You’ve probably already heard the news, and it is 100% true: You can play a game of Pong on the Apple Watch. Technically, it’s called A Tiny Game of Pong, but it genuinely is a game of Pong on that platform that uniquely uses the Watch’s digital crown. And as I understand it, it’s pretty good (I wouldn’t know first hand because…well…I’m not an Apple guy, and even if I were, I wouldn’t buy an Apple Watch).
But while I would certainly argue for the lunacy that is the Apple Watch, I’m shocked at how many people are saying that gaming on a smartwatch is non-starter or “bad idea”. Yes, they readily admit that A Tiny Game of Pong is good, but their next statement follows the lines of, “But I’m not about to go playing games on my watch all the time”.
And that’s the part I don’t get. Certainly, I wouldn’t hash out hundreds of dollars for something with as much limited capabilities as the Apple Watch has, either, but the idea of playing a game on your watch? It’s not new, nor was it originally unsuccessful. Quite the opposite, actually.
Tiger Electronics, more specifically. Even though they were bought out by Hasbro in 1998, Tiger was a company that had been around since the 70’s. While they had released various electronic products in the early 80’s (including a kid’s computer), they really hit their stride in the later 80’s and 90’s with their handheld monochrome-LCD-screen-based games.
Pretty much every franchise and property at the time wanted a piece of the action. These handheld games sold for around $20 USD at the time, which was incredibly inexpensive compared to other handheld games which cost $30…and that was just for the cartridge, it didn’t include the expensive handheld console, as well. Tiger’s games didn’t have that problem, they were all-in-ones, adding more to their popularity.
While very simple games and very graphically unimpressive (much like A Tiny Game of Pong), they were ridiculously popular. Eventually, all three of these factors led to…a smaller form factor. Games of such simplicity and lack of need for serious hardware could be fit onto, say, a watch…
See what I mean? And these game watches were even more popular. Costing roughly the same price as their largely handheld brethren, game watches gave kids a magical idea in the 90’s: We can bring our video games into class at school without teachers realizing we were playing a game or even had a game!
And it kinda worked (as long as you turned the sound off). Were the controls the easiest thing to use, even for child hands? Yeah, it wasn’t the best, and certainly if touchscreens were a thing, they would’ve been far superior (as much I think touchscreen controls are often more of a problem for gaming than they are a solution, this case is different). But that didn’t stop anyone from playing the shit out of these little games. Kids were obsessed, and even the juggernaut that didn’t need to fear any other company in its day got into it in the early 90’s: Nintendo…
Wildly popular stuff, and Zelda games are rare to be made by Nintendo, so the confidence was obviously there in the watch gaming platform. And what was wildly popular then, I can’t see why it couldn’t potentially be wildly popular now. And these style of games could benefit greatly from the processing and graphical “power” of the Apple Watch or Android Wear, as well as the touch screen or digital crown/hardware buttons, as well. Even Pebble watches could get in on this action. Are they deep, storytelling games? No. But then neither is Angry Birds, one of the craziest success stories (and once again a success thanks to Amazon Underground) in software history. And I definitely think there’s room for a particularly inventive fellow to come up with more engaging games on the platform (perhaps even a rehash of stuff from Incom?).
But will anybody play them or really see them as viable when they have their smartphone with them and the phone can do so much more? Well, that’s the rub. As it stands, smartwatches are…meaningless. There are some cool things you can do with them, but none of which warrants more than what Pebble’s watches can easily do (for far less money and better durability). However, if we get to the point in the future–like the mysteriously ill-fated LG Urbane 2nd Edition LTE Android watch was previewing–where smartwatches have their own GPS, their own SIM cards, their own telephone numbers, bluetooth, and everything else you expect from a smartphone…and you no longer need a smartphone to communicate…then these games will become far more viable.
It is going to take that point in the future, though. I’m one of those persons that looks forward to the day when smartwatches get released that actually replace my smartphone, not compliment it (I’ll do the heavy duty stuff on my laptop). I can’t wait for a smartwatch to become my communications system, my note taker, my maps, everything, with no smartphone required. And I can’t imagine I’m the only one.
And that’s when these smartwatch games will really come into their own. Maybe a company like Zomia Offline Games could be one top of that. Or maybe it could be you.
DISCLAIMER: The ZOG Blog is the part of this site where Dr. Brian Sovryn can talk about anything. From pop culture, to philosophy, to just sharing updates with what’s going on at Zomia Offline Games and with other projects.