Wearables

Can retro arcade games make a wrist-worn comeback?

Can retro arcade games make a ...
The Gameband is a smartwatch for gaming, which includes five classic Atari arcade games
The Gameband is a smartwatch for gaming, which includes five classic Atari arcade games
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FMTwo Game says the Gameband will come with a service called PixelFurnace, allowing players to buy and play games on the watch and on computers
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FMTwo Game says the Gameband will come with a service called PixelFurnace, allowing players to buy and play games on the watch and on computers
The Terraria Edition of the Gameband features a brown and green color scheme inspired by the game, and comes with a mini version of the original game
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The Terraria Edition of the Gameband features a brown and green color scheme inspired by the game, and comes with a mini version of the original game
The Gameband is a smartwatch for gaming, which includes five classic Atari arcade games
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The Gameband is a smartwatch for gaming, which includes five classic Atari arcade games
The company says the Gameband will ship with a list of general purpose apps, like a calendar, music player, weather and alarm
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The company says the Gameband will ship with a list of general purpose apps, like a calendar, music player, weather and alarm
The Gameband comes in three styles: a general black edition, an Atari Edition and a Terraria Edition
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The Gameband comes in three styles: a general black edition, an Atari Edition and a Terraria Edition

Between smartphones, tablets, and handheld gaming systems like the 3DS and the upcoming Nintendo Switch, killing time on bus rides has never been easier. But soon you might be able to fill those hours with some classic Atari arcade games as well – provided you don't mind playing them one-handed on a tiny smartwatch screen.

It hasn't been a household name for many moons, but in recent times Atari has been making efforts to get its brand back on stage. Now it appears the dusty old logo might soon be popping up on a wearable device called the Gameband – a "smartwatch for gamers," developed in partnership with FMTwo Game.

Do gamers really need a smartwatch dedicated to them? Probably not. Do they want one? Apparently so: the Gameband Kickstarter campaign, which set a goal of US$75,000, has already cracked the $100,000 mark with over a month left. So far, five classic Atari titles have been announced for the device, Asteroids, Pong, Breakout, Centipede and Crystal Castles, as well as an exclusive watch-friendly version of the indie sandbox Terraria.

There's no denying the sweet pull of nostalgia – if you don't believe us, just try to order a Nintendo Classic Mini NES – but we can't help but wonder if playing these games one-handed, on a 1.63-inch touchscreen scarcely wider than the finger you're playing it with, is the best way to replicate those old school arcade vibes. With no killer app to really justify their existence yet, even Apple is finding the smartwatch to be a bit of a hard sell.

The Terraria Edition of the Gameband features a brown and green color scheme inspired by the game, and comes with a mini version of the original game
The Terraria Edition of the Gameband features a brown and green color scheme inspired by the game, and comes with a mini version of the original game

In the Gameband's current form, we'd prefer to play these games on our easier-to-hold, bigger-screened smartphones, but that could change if the developers make use of the watch's other input methods. The company says that those (like us) who look at the device and say "that screen is too small to play on" aren't thinking creatively enough: ideally, Gameband games could make use of movement, gestures, voice, steps, location and other built-in tech to play in interesting ways.

If that vague promise is eventually delivered on, games designed for smartwatches could carve a new niche, in the same way that mobile games embraced touchscreen inputs incredibly well and exploded in popularity. But when all we've got to go on so far is tiny touchscreen Pong, well, we're not ready to put too much faith in that dream yet.

FMTwo Game says the device will also come with more general purpose apps like a calendar, contacts, weather, alarm, a music player and Alexa voice control. The Gameband is designed to connect to both iOS and Android phones via Bluetooth, and companion apps on those systems will allow it to be controlled and set up.

FMTwo Game says the Gameband will come with a service called PixelFurnace, allowing players to buy and play games on the watch and on computers
FMTwo Game says the Gameband will come with a service called PixelFurnace, allowing players to buy and play games on the watch and on computers

There's a Micro SD slot for expandable storage, and the watch can be hooked up to a PC via the USB-C connection. That connection apparently allows players to transport game worlds from Terraria from one computer to another, or play big-screen versions of the Atari games through a store front called PixelFurnace. The current lineup isn't very exciting, and it's far from a Steam-killer, but if more stock comes to those virtual shelves this could be one of the device's better features.

Those pledging to the Kickstarter can choose three different designs: a basic model with a black body and strap, a red Atari Edition with the game giant's logo on the strap, or a Terraria Edition, which features a brown and green color scheme inspired by the game. It sounds like all editions have access to the same lineup of games and apps.

FMTwo Game is currently seeking funding for the Gameband on Kickstarter. Early Bird pledges start at US$149 for any edition, with bundles available from $349. The campaign video can be seen below.

Source: Gameband

Gameband: The First Smartwatch for Gamers

2 comments
KungfuSteve
Just what classic game fans need... another whack port job, that is so small you cant see the screen, AND Controls like Poop. Its Bad enough, to recall all of the horrible console and pc ports... that butchered the originals, due to not including/selling the NEEDED special custom controllers. Pong Needs 2 rotary dials. Period. Flaky motion sensors will never be accurate enough for a decent experience. Let alone both players needing Dentaist's Telescopic googles, to see the screen! lol If anyone is interested in these.. its merely for the retro inspired statement. IE: For looks only. However, if one was smart... one could actually make something that was both functional, and thus far more desired than a glorified piece of ugly/gawky jewelry. An example of this... would be a mini Tempest watch... that was actually a circular screen... with the outside diameter of the watch being an actual weighted 360 degree free-spinning dial. Heck... go all out, and make it on a glasses-less stereoscopic 3d display, and put in a mini/micro hdmi port, so the dial can be used to play a game on a full sized screen... wherever you are. Make the dial bluetooth? as well as able to be wired via micro usb? (cant have controller lag on fast moving classics) ... so it can be used to control other spinner games.. on any device... be it PC or Mobile. As for Asteriods... or anything with rapid button mashing... you cant use a touch screen. These classics are far more challenging / fast... than a typical stoll-in-the-park FPS. Even being a fraction of a second off... and you have lost your life. This also means... that the screen itself would have to have lightning fast refresh speeds, and no controller lag whatsoever. Furthermore.. many classics used Leaf buttons. These buttons, when 'feathered', are silky smooth, and can produce rapid-fire rates that no typical microswitch nor other type of button can attain. This is needed on many of these classics... not only for speed in shots.. but also, to combat physical fatigue. Feathering... is where you make the two contacts on the leafs just barely touch.. and lightly vibrate the button. This causes a sort of intermittent short... that you can control with almost no effort, with less than a paper thickness worth of button travel. In contrast.. a microswitch has a travel that is more like 1 to 2 mm... and the microswitch has a very heavy spring pressure to overcome before it snaps closed. This causes a lot more fatigue than you can imagine... over a very short period of time. Yes, the are more maintenance free.. but.. thats about it. As such, games that were designed with microswitches... had to reduce the difficulty and fire rates. Try playing Halleys Comet in an emulator... using a microswitch... and see how quickly you tire. All this is mostly mute, in their case, .. cause you could not place your bulky fingers over the tiny screen. And no way you are gesturing for so many different functions.. at lightning speeds. lol A solution would have to be optical based leaf buttons, with long travel, so that the button does not "bottom out" easily. (to easily stay in the feather-bounce zone... without stopping momentum by hitting the end of stroke/travel) Furthermore... Because these games are so Iconic... the style that they bring should be represented properly. Not using some Generic half-a** multi-game theme/look/feel. If someone does the things right, and true... then people will not only buy them in droves for the look.. but also for real functionality. As well as for hacking into larger shells, with larger displays, and or possible larger controllers. The biggest problem with the classic TV plug-in games... was not only the poor quality controllers.. but more so.. in the horrible video quality output. With options for RGB / HDMI + Stereo sound ... hackers would stripped the stores of every single unit.. at full price. You could not have kept the things in stock fast enough. But with composite signal only? Forget it. Hacking controllers is easy.. but not worth it, if the display output is total Garbage.
Paul Anthony
I don't get it. What is the reason for this over my smart phone?