- Pokemon Go developer Niantic has made the wildly popular augmented reality-enabled mobile game available for the Apple Watch, although in a limited version that won't allow users to actually catch Pokemon through the smartwatch.
- The Apple Watch edition instead includes the ability to log each play session as a workout, with gameplay counting toward personal activity rings.
- Gamers may also receive notifications about nearby Pokemon virtual monsters to collect; count distance toward hatching Pokemon eggs and receiving candy; receive notifications about nearby PokeStops (locations like retail outlets where players go to stock up on Pokeballs and find Pokemon) and collect items from them; and receive notifications when eggs hatch and medals are awarded.
A lot has been made of how Niantic and Nintendo are trying to recapture the huge success it experienced in the initial days of Pokemon Go's original release, as if a game that has been downloaded more than 600 million times is some kind of disappointment.
The Apple Watch announcement comes just days after Niantic announced Pokemon Go retail partnerships with Starbucks and Sprint. Themed special events, such as a Halloween celebration and a new Pokemon released for the holidays, also have been viewed as steps to re-energize game activity. But another way to do that is to put Pokemon Go on more devices beyond smartphones.
Niantic and Nintendo seemed to understand this early on, as they rolled out a Pokemon Go Plus wrist wearable, which was itself was a massive hit, and four months ago announced plans for the game to come to the Apple Watch. Since then, there has been some speculation about whether or not Pokemon Go really would make it to the Apple Watch if Niantic and Nintendo were indeed pursuing their own wearables strategy (9to5 Mac even reported earlier this week that the Apple Watch plan was canceled.) If Niantic and Nintendo are making wearables, that certainly could help grow the game's popularity, but landing on the Apple Watch and other smartwatches might take Pokemon Go much further.
Getting the game on more devices certainly can make it easier for users to play and spend more time in-game without always having to look at their smartphones. In addition, it broadens the reach and value for retailers and other brands who have forged partnerships and paid sponsorships to support and participate in Pokemon Go. Ultimately, that ecosystem of partners could come to mean more to Niantic and Nintendo than the latest download numbers.