Sparking interest in Apple Watch
It's been a busy few months since The Frameworks Spark launched earlier this year. We've been traversing numerous client projects and integrating new Sparks into the team. And we've been putting our heads together to create some new intellectual property. Spark Labs is one of the core pillars of Spark – and we're not wasting any time getting to work.
I, along with our interns Matt and Ali, had been working on a number of different ideas around Apple technologies, with a particular focus on Apple TV following its recent update to include more apps and services. But a few weeks ago I bought an Apple Watch and we shifted our focus to Apple’s newest product category.
Gap in the market
I was browsing the App Store soon after buying my watch – and I was disappointed with the number of native apps available. There were even fewer when I searched for games; save for a few poorly executed offerings, there were none.
Sure, Apple Watch has only been on the market for little more than six months, but the success of mobile games over the past five years shows consumer appetite. This is the year that mobile game revenue will surpass consoles – a passing of the torch.
There are reasons why Apple Watch games haven’t quite rocketed like their smartphone peers. Dave has already pointed out the flaws with the first generation of Apple watch – mainly the speed of third-party offerings and Apple’s “handbrake on” to app development. And we discovered other hurdles as we set about creating games for the device Apple’s dubbed its “most personal yet”.
Chiefly, you have to go back to basics. Apple Watch isn't that powerful and you can’t develop games in the way you would for an iPhone. We had to scrap our first attempt – a turn-based strategy game – after discovering the watch’s limitations first-hand.
Back in time
We ended up building our own engine to render games on the watch. Once it was created, it became apparent that the best games for Apple Watch, with its various limitations, are rebooted versions of classics from the 1970s and 80s. But this certainly wasn’t a bad thing. Titles like Pong, Lunar Landing and Pac-Man kick-started our addiction to videogames and remain engaging to this day. These games would be easy to play – which is important, as you’ve essentially just got Apple Watch’s digital crown as a control.
We decided to create three games in one app – mainly to provide value and partly to make it easy to manoeuvre around the Apple Watch app menu, which can get crowded and hard to navigate if you flood it with apps. The app – Watch Games – is released today and it includes Rebound, Smuggler and Snake.
We’re already back in the lab developing expansion packs – starting with “bar games”, which features the classic trio of pool, darts and skittles.
To find out more about Watch Games – and to download it – click here.
Watch Games is just the start of what we’re looking to achieve at Spark Labs. It’s a place for us to create and develop our own IP using the latest technology. We’ve got a “fail fast” culture; sometimes you can learn more when things don’t go right. And you have to be nimble – if something’s not working or it’s becoming clear that the market’s not there, you have to let the idea go and move to the next.
Looking forward, we’re really excited about augmented reality – and we can’t wait to get our hands on a Microsoft HoloLens so we can see what we can create for it. We’re also very much pursuing Apple TV opportunities. The latest iteration of the set-top box shows that the company sees apps as the future of TV – and it will be interesting to see how developers respond.
We’re also looking at an area that we think will have tangible and far-reaching impacts – cognitive computing. Specifically, we want to find new and innovative ways to develop products and services using IBM Watson. It’s a technology that IBM is placing significant bets on – and that is already being used to create some innovative services, from predicting the most popular toys at Christmas to changing the face of the health industry.
It’s a really exciting time at Spark. We’re working hard to create exceptional digital experiences for clients – and we’re hard at work in the lab to develop them for everyone else, too.
Watch this space.
- Wearable technology