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Why Pokémon Go isn't coming to the Apple Watch

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Why an Apple Watch app doesn't make sense ... for them

Pokémon Go is an amazing game that, to date, offers only limited interaction with the world around you. You find the pocket monsters, you try to capture them in your Poké Balls and you play a basic minigame when you're battling for control of a gym. All this is done via the touchscreen of your iOS or Android device. You can read our guide if you're interested in the game's basics, or get to started yourself.

It would be perfect for the Apple Watch, in fact.

"The Apple Watch’s purpose is to reduce the amount of time you spend with your iPhone, and a companion Pokémon Go app for your wrist could do so much more than just alert you to nearby monsters," Macworld recently wrote.

"The smartphone game guides you to find Pokémon by indicating with one to three paw prints how far away they are," the story continues. "To catch them, you flick Poké Balls at them from your smartphone screen ... Any of this could be done on the wrist, and could result in longer game sessions if you can leave your smartphone’s display off for a few more minutes at a time, giving your battery a break. I’d even wager that a lot of Pokémon Masters would pay to unlock a smartwatch app as an in-app purchase."

It's also unlikely to happen in the near future.

Why the Apple watch doesn't make sense for Pokémon Go

It mostly comes down to money, and the odd mishmash of licensing and companies that led to the creation of Pokémon Go. This isn't a Nintendo game, nor is it sold for that company's hardware or through its virtual storefront. In fact, it's possible that Nintendo is making the least from the game in comparison to its partners.

"The title was jointly developed by Niantic, Pokémon Company and Nintendo," David Gibson, an analyst at Macquarie Research, told Business Insider. "It is unclear exactly what their economic interest is in the game, but we presume that out of every 100 units earned at the app store, 30 would go to Apple, 30 to Niantic, 30 to Pokémon and 10 to Nintendo."

This isn't as dire as it sounds. If the game continues at its current pace, or even levels off in the near future, there will be plenty of money for everyone. Just keep in mind each dollar that comes into the game is cut up between many large companies.

Nintendo still has a vested interest in keeping you on its hardware, even if that ship has sailed when it comes to the primary device for Pokémon Go. Players may be willing to spend a few bucks for a smartwatch app that offloads some of the game's functionality from your phone's screen, but Nintendo and The Pokémon Company would much rather sell you the $35 Pokémon Go Plus hardware.

That hardware doesn't have a screen. It has a single button and an LED. It likely costs nothing to make and sells for $35, if you can find one. They seem to be hopelessly sold out. The hardware is also compatible with both iOS and Android.

This is all great news for the companies involved; they get to sell their own high-margin hardware while creating a feeling of scarcity in the product that's impossible with a purely digital game, and they don't have to split any of the revenue with Apple or Google. Why undercut their own product with an app that may, in fact, offer a better experience on smart watches?

That's not to say they haven't thought about it.

"The game takes place in the real world; it just so happens that you interface through whatever device you're using, a phone or a watch," John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs, told Polygon in a previous story. "All of the fun of the game doesn't have to be encapsulated on the tiny screen of a watch; that's just the input and output mechanism."

There was a version of Ingress created for Android smartwatches, in fact. But that was a whole different beast, and it's unlikely Niantic, Nintendo or The Pokémon Company is that interested in trying the secondary app approach again.

Releasing their own, affordable hardware instead of trying to capitalize on the relative success of the Apple Watch is a much better financial strategy, even if it isn't ideal for players who already own a smartwatch.

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