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A new game platform on an unexpected place: Your wrist
A new game platform on an unexpected place: Your wrist Exclusive
April 24, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

April 24, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    26 comments
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



As odd as it may seem, developers might soon find a brand new game platform strapped to players' wrists. At least, so says Allerta, the digital watchmaking company behind the Kickstarter-funded Pebble smart watch.

The device has already soared past Double Fine's adventure game as the most-funded project in Kickstarter history. It's earned more than $6.3 million so far, and Allerta promises to deliver a sleek, versatile device that does far more than just keep the time.

Much like on smartphones, developers will be able to create their own apps for the upcoming device, and Pebble creator Eric Migicovsky told Gamasutra he thinks the watch will attract a healthy audience of game enthusiasts -- making it a great platform for developers looking to experiment with new hardware.

"Most of the people at Allerta are gamers, and on Kickstarter, the top two projects after us [Double Fine's untitled adventure game and InXile's Wasteland 2] are games. So I'm thinking there's probably a lot of overlap with those hardcore gamers on Kickstarter," he said.

The device is still in production, but the team at Allerta has already prototyped and brainstormed a number of game apps that would work using the Pebble's four buttons, accelerometer, and black and white e-paper screen (which Migicovsky says boasts a refresh rate of 30 frames per second).

"Internally, we built Space Invaders on it, and I think there are a lot of really cool little casual games or classic games that we can bring over to Pebble… I can definitely imagine things like Tetris clones, or multiplayer games going on with the watch. It would be awesome."

Migicovsky noted that Allerta's previous product, the inPulse Watch, has a small library of games of its own, but he imagines the Pebble's potential is far greater. The trick, he said, is to get developers on board before the device gets off the ground.

"We want to work with people in the early days to make it really easy to make awesome little casual games for the watch. So if anyone's interested, definitely get in contact with us!" he said.

Migicovsky added that since the watch can connect to iOS and Android phones via Bluetooth, developers can also make apps that connect to the internet, leverage GPS technology, and more. The SDK itself will be available for free, and Allerta plans to provide its own graphics libraries to assist third party developers.

"And if anyone has any really sweet use cases [that the SDK doesn't support yet], we could develop it for them!" Migicovsky said. "We've also got a watch app store, so you can even sell your apps for $0.99 or whatever -- I think it's going to be great."

The watch is due for official release this September, and since every Kickstarter reward acts as a pre-order, Migicovsky said the device will have a healthy player base even before it goes on sale.

"We've sold about 40,000 watches right now, and on day one you could see perhaps 60,000 users, which would be a pretty sweet market for developers. And we want to meet those developers, talk to them, and make really awesome games with them," he said.

For more information on the Pebble or its SDK, visit the device's official developer blog.


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Comments


Joseph Anthony B. A. Tanimowo-Reyes
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I'm not feeling it. That screen's way too small - I'd rather just pull out one of my handhelds to play a game.

Joe E
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First he mentions overlap with hardcore gaming audience, then mentions and calls for "little casual games". So which is it?

More to the point, I can't imagine interacting with a watch for more than 30 seconds at a time, so getting a Tetris high score on this thing would come with a very sore arm. It's a cool watch, and it's a nice gimmick that it comes with Snake or something, but as a gaming platform? I have my doubts.

David Navarro
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Well, then they need games with reward loops under 30 seconds. Like Angry Birds, but even simpler.

Michael DeFazio
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I see possibilities with this device for turn based (Poker-esque) or asynchronous (Fantasy Football) types of games which may need to send updates sporadically. I like the fact it's "always on" so I don't have to bypass my lock screen and/or fiddle with the finicky touch only interface of my Droid Incredible (I miss buttons BTW).

It's not going to "replace" gaming on the phone, it just provides a different mode of potential gaming (Also it's kinda cool having a bluetooth device talking to your phone.) Hopefully people can come up with some creative uses for this (I think games CAN be fun on this device if they are designed with it's limitations/features in mind)

Rafael Vazquez
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Though my first reaction was skeptical, who knows? I mean sure, it will start off in black and white and the screen is small, but the same thing was said several years ago about cellphones. If it can talk to other hardware, maybe we can use the processing power of the cellphone or PC and just use the watch as a screen. I guess what will really determine the matter is how many people will get into this....if people want a new screen, we're sure to be there with more games ;-)

R. Hunter Gough
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This DOES look a little cooler than the pac-man watch I had in second grade.

Chris Melby
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But since it doesn't have a little tiny pink joystick, I'm not interested. :)

+++ +++ +++

I'm going to pass on this. I'd be interested if it were running Android.

Ian Uniacke
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Maybe but it's definitely not as cool as the transformer watch "I" had in second grade. ;)

Jeremy Reaban
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Heh, I remember getting in trouble in school 30 years ago for playing with my Space Invaders watch (not actually space invaders, but same gameplay)

E Zachary Knight
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@Chris,

It is compatible with Android devices. What exactly itself is running is another story though.

Chris Melby
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@E Zachary,

It's the running part that would interest me. :)

I'd like a watch that runs at least iCS, and also a car stereo, and so on...

Joshua Darlington
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I can imagine some fun GPS AR uses.

Darcy Nelson
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My thoughts exactly.

Jeremie Sinic
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There's some potential, but to be really usable as a game device, I think it needs to be easily removable, no matter the screen size, because honestly if it's attached to one's wrist it won't be comfortable to play most games.

E Zachary Knight
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Considering the size of it, I doubt you will be playing many two handed games to begin with. So I don't really see a problem with it being strapped to your wrist.

Alex Leighton
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It's cool, but I think it's going to pretty much be like gaming on a graphing calculator, you're only really going to want to do it when there's absolutely no other option.

I see more potential as a convenience device, so that you wouldn't have to take your phone out to check email and such.

Michael Wenk
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I have played around with the Sony Smart Watch, and quite frankly, it sucks. It may do OK with certain apps, but the display is so small, even playing something like Tic-Tac-Toe is painful. About the only thing I could see would be something like those old virtual pets...

Pallav Nawani
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The watch has an accelerometer, so maybe it can be used like a wiimote or something. I admit that doesn't sound too exciting though.

David Navarro
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I'm definitely getting one (unless Apple comes up with some first-party solution before this is released). The call alert alone will make it worth it, as I tend to miss about half of my calls.

Andrew Chen
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Looking at the incredible amount of funding they crowd-sourced (with 3 weeks to go!?) it sure seems there is a market demand that is begging to be filled.
Apple or Google ought to be working behind-the-scenes on such a product. Apple has an obvious path of evolution for their Nano (which itself has seen successful kickstarter drives for fancy watch bands) and recent reports show Google is taking wearable computing very seriously.
Glasses aside, the watch-as-an-extension of the phone is a natural expansion. The Pebble in this drive has some cool ideas and functionality but I cant shake the feeling it will be overshadowed quickly.

Eric Geer
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The biggest draw for me on this---yes it looks like it could be quite handy...buuuutt

You have to have your phone on or near you at all times

AND

only 7 hour battery life?? It's a watch(+more) but in the end it's still a watch.

E Zachary Knight
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You misread. It has a 7 DAY battery life:

Q. How long does the battery last? A. The rechargeable battery keeps Pebble going for 7+ days.

Eric Geer
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Good call-- Thanks Zach---

Anyhow...7 days is still a bit short IMO.

Doug Poston
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I can see it as being part of a larger game.

For example, you can get alerts from friends who want to play CoD. Get updated scores. Check up on MMOs. The GPS can be used for real-life meet ups. Etc.

Saul Gonzalez
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Are we on the threshold of inventing the "shaketone"? I can see a need for different apps to have different vibrate patterns so the user can tell which kind of notification they're receiving without looking at the screen. Imagine the skin memories.

Rafael Vazquez
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Imagine if we could connect it via bluetooth to the google glasses.....we could really make some fun enhanced reality games with that, hehe.


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