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Pokémon Go is finally here for the Apple Watch

But does anyone still care?


When Apple brought Niantic onstage in October to show off Pokémon Go running on the Apple Watch, it seemed pretty cool.

Pokémon Go was the hottest game on earth, but it had the annoying side effect of forcing players to constantly stare at their phones. Being able to play at least parts of the game on a watch seemed to offer a bunch of advantages.

For some Pokémon diehards, it seemed like maybe enough of a reason to even go out and buy one of the pricey wearables.

But as Pokémon Go arrives for the Apple Watch on Thursday, it seems almost a little passé. The game, while still popular, has lost much of its buzz and mainstream appeal.

That said, I’m sure plenty of those who remain avid players will welcome a new way to play the game. I, for one, plan to devote significant time in the next few days to aggressively test the watch app.

The watch version lets you integrate the steps you take with both Apple’s fitness apps and the in-game rewards that are tied to walking. You can collect resources from Poké Stops and see what creatures are nearby, but to actually catch a Pokémon you will have to pull out your phone.

As important, the watch app could help mitigate Pokémon Go’s enormous drain on the iPhone battery. Players have to start a session on their phone, but can then switch to another app or even lock their phone and put it away. The watch app runs in the background to give trainers credit for all the steps they take.

Pokémon Go creator Niantic has been counting on the Apple Watch app, as well as a series of improvements to the game, to help re-engage early fans and keep avid players involved.

As for juicing Apple Watch sales, though, the timing could be better. The watch app was promised for before the end of the year, and Niantic did hit that goal, if barely. But the biggest time for Apple Watch sales is during the holiday shopping season, which is nearly over.

Niantic CEO John Hanke acknowledged that the effort to bring Pokémon Go to the watch proved time-consuming.

But even if Pokémon Go fails to be a giant catalyst for the watch in its own right, it could provide a road map for the next developer for how to create a game that spans watch and phone.

The first lesson might be to have the watch app ready from the get-go, or soon after, to strike while the iron is hot.

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