Is this what synergy looks like or it just a death throe?
There are many questions to ask about Wednesday’s announcement that thinkpiece fodder and game (in that order) Pokémon GO will be available on the new Apple Watch, but that’s the one I keep coming back to. In a sense, these products deserve one another. The Apple Watch, while not an abject failure, has yet to seize the public imagination; it’s slow and the best thing most reviewers ever said about it was that the next one might be good. Pokémon GO, meanwhile, started off like a stabbed rat, and subsequently lost momentum. Both of these products still have promise, but their best days may have passed. What a matched pair.
the honeymoon is over; have fun being boring
Technology is never more interesting than when it ceases to be sexy. The Apple Watch was briefly the Next Big Thing and then, well…then what? Likewise, Pokémon GO’s future as something more than a fad is far from clear. But most technologies that actually have value are kind of boring or at least not particularly sexy. If the Apple Watch was ever to have a future, it was going to have to become boring — just not in the dweebish way it already was. In a similar way, the biggest test of Pokémon GO’s augmented reality gameplay is whether it can last once the novelty wears off. The honeymoon is over; have fun being boring.
The Apple Watch also presents an interesting challenge for augmented reality. On the one hand, it is less intrusive than holding a phone in front of your face — or at least that’s the theory. Is reality more augmented, then, when updates are delivered in a subtler manner? Conversely, to the extent where a watch app might allow Pokémon GO to deliver updates in a more effective way, is that not a better form of AR? These are not sexy questions, but they are the more interesting ones for these products and their mediums. Welcome to the adulthood of your technology.