The challenges and opportunities of Apple Watch development

William Volk sees good and bad

The challenges and opportunities of Apple Watch development

William Volk of Playscreen took the stage at Pocket Gamer Connect San Francisco 2015 to share the realities of Apple Watch development.

He went over the good and bad, but ended by sharing his excitement on the future potential of the device.

Volk started with the bad news.

The Apple Watch is strictly a finger device, it has no buttons (at least for software). The lack of buttons creates interesting design challenges for developers to overcome.

However, the biggest downside to the Apple Watch, in the eyes of Volk, is the lack of a sprite system to display graphics.

Everything currently runs through web-based style sheets. Volk is hopeful that Apple will decide to change this and enable the use of sprites in future SDKs.

Finders, keepers

Design restriction aside, the largest limiting factor for the device at this point is discoverability.

“Apple didn’t finish their companion app, it doesn’t support browsing apps,” Volk stated.

As it currently stands only a handful of apps and games are featured on the Companion App. And relying on getting featured by Apple is not the best business strategy to help move your app.

Playscreen's debut Apple Watch game is Blackjack Anywhere

Volk added that this will likely remain the situation until the big SDK update later in 2015 which will enable native apps for the device among other improvements.


Volk gave some advice on how to handle these hurdles if developers are still planning on getting their Apple Watch app out the door.

The biggest piece of advice was to have your app on all the Apple devices to help make it more visible for your customers.

Volk also suspects that Watch users want shorter bursts of activity than even that of their phone. So designing games that are quick seems to be key to the current stock of successful games.

Aside from the frustrations Volk was truly excited about the, “...huge potential for creative games based on the constraints of the form factor.”

Games like Lifeline and Runeblade are great examples of how to use the device well.