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Smartwatches and the future of video games


It’s taken several years, but the smartwatch might be about to revolutionise the world of video games.

The smartwatch technology started slowly. There were efforts from start-ups like Pebble, and then established giants like Samsung, from as early as 2013. But it was the arrival of the Apple Watch in April this year when the concept became a mainstream proposition.

When Apple enters a market, it’s a big deal. The iPhone effectively established the smartphone, just as the iPad made tablets a worldwide phenomenon and the iPod changed how people listened to music on the go.

And so far, the Apple Watch has got off to a solid start. The device was sold out for the first two months on sale, and although things have slowed down a little since then, it’s important to note we are only at the beginning of this technology.

“The Apple Watch is a very good companion for your iPhone,” says James Cartlidge, business development executive at Universally Apps, who was also one of the first adopters of the Apple Watch.

“It appears that the developers are just testing the waters and capabilities of the Apple Watch today, I’m excited to see where it goes

“At the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, we got some insight into the next OS for Apple Watch, and you can already see how Apple is making the device both more proactive and independent. It’s exciting.”

Data specialists IHS predict that 19 million Apple Watches will be shipped this year alone (globally), giving the tech giant a 56 per cent share of the smartwatch market – although the firm expects that share to drop over five years as more players enter the space. In fact, the data analysts predict that Android Wear – Google’s rival to Apple – will ship 96m by 2020. In that year alone, IHS expects 101 million shipments of smartwatches.

It’s exciting from a tech point-of-view, but what about games? The iPad and iPhone transformed the world of video games, could the Apple Watch – and by extension smartwatches in general – do something similar?

“The Apple Watch is brilliant for meetings, checking messages and calls,” continues Cartlidge.

“It also helps you to be more social. Smartphones can be quite anti-social devices, with people burying their heads into their virtual life. The Apple Watch is a device that is designed to be glanced at. As a result, it’s not a great for pure games and the early reviews for games on the Apple Watch have not been great. It’s not a comfortable playing experience.

“Upon saying that, the new OS will make Apple Watch open source, which is great for developers. And it could become a really useful companion app for larger games – be that existing smartphone games or even console games. It could act as a Pip Boy in Fallout 4, for instance, or it could be a way to notify you that your farm needs ploughing on Farmville or a similar social game. You could pick those vegetables or build that castle just by tapping the watch.

“As a sort of five-second gaming experience, the Apple Watch would work great.”

Everywear Games' first title is a combat RPG

Everywear Games’ first title is a combat RPG

Cartlidge isn’t the only person that shares this view on the best way to game on Apple Watch. A few studios have already started investigating and investing in this market, such as Bossa Studios and Everywear Games. The latter is a new studio devoted entirely to making smartwatch games, and was set up by some real industry heavyweights, including executives from the likes of Rovio, Remedy and Digital Chocolate.

“The people who buy smartwatches are going to look for entertainment that’s specifically tailored for them,” CEO Aki Järvilehto said in a recent interview.


“We’re talking about very different devices and game experiences.

“We’ll deliver ‘Twitter-sized’ entertainment. Games that you can play in five- to 15-second sessions, where the experience builds from short sessions into something you can be passionate about over days, weeks and months.”

Of course, smartwatch games require some different thinking. The screen size is small – large amounts of text will not work on those tiny screens – and developers ought to consider localisation, too. Every character counts, and so studios will need to test their localisation work thoroughly to ensure the text is not only readable, but any abbreviations work effectively.

“Utilising loads of words or words with a lot of characters, is not ideal, particularly if you want to translate your product into other languages – markets such as the Netherlands and Russia often use long characters that would need abbreviating, which won’t be a great experience for the gamer,” concludes Cartlidge.

“This rule also applies to developers that want their smartphone games to work on the smartwatches, too – think about your localisation and the markets you want to deliver your game in.”

Universally Speaking returns from Gamescom 2015

Last week’s was our busiest (and hopefully most successful) Gamescom ever! With around 50 pre-booked meetings a lot more impromptu ones our small team did a fantastic job presenting our localisation, quality assurance and audio services to old and new faces.

They are now back in the office making sure the show really was a success but it is important to say the success is partly owed to UKIE and the stand they had organised. We were surrounded by some great British companies in a very “royal” atmosphere. The UKIE staff proved excellent organisers and enablers, and made sure we were fed and watered.

As always, it was great to see so many familiar faces and brilliant to meet new people working on some exciting new games. We braved the consumer halls and made it through alive… barely!

Now it is time to catch up with all the correspondence waiting in our various inboxes and crack on with helping our clients (and hopefully new customers) projects.

See you again next year!