Sometimes I look at a successful Kickstarter campaign and feel old. It’s a weird feeling for a 28-year-old to have, but that’s how technology goes these days. I’m super in for fancy tech though, especially if it’s weird or uncalled for. Hell, I’m looking for a smartwatch right now, because no matter how old I get I’ll always be That Nerd. But for the life of me, I can’t wrap my head around the Gameband.
On paper, the Gameband sounds cool. Rather than cramming as many sensors and features into one single wristwatch, FMTwo Game Inc.’s goal is to make a band that focuses on the things they feel are important: “A kick-ass processor, a stunning display, outstanding connectivity, a big battery and a great OS.” There’s no NFC, GPS, or LTE band so the device can sport a powerful feel in an affordable package. This is all well and good, but then the weird stuff comes in.
Smartwatch for Gamers – Why?
As you may have guessed, Gameband is geared towards gamers. The watch comes with a microSD card slot that can expand the storage of the device up to 128GB. The idea is to turn the watch into a portable drive for storing games, media, and more. You can then plug it into a computer which boots up a unique OS called PixelFurnace, allowing you to play your media.
Again, on paper, this idea makes sense. A lot of people use their smartwatches to play music and such while they exercise. But the Gameband doesn’t have built-in GPS, LTE, or an HR sensor, so it’s useless for fitness nuts. Indeed, the Gameband doesn’t seem to care about fitness at all. It’s for that reason that I ask: why? What makes the microSD card necessary that most smartphones don’t already accomplish? Or, hell, a flash drive? Cloud storage? You could argue that you could simply play your music from the SD card and not worry about bringing your phone, but with that space they could’ve put in LTE to accomplish that same goal and provide even more functionality.
The Weirdness Rabbit Hole
There’s more weirdness. These guys partnered up with Atari to co-design parts of this watch, and as such, you can play some Atari games on it. The device also ships with a “mini-game” version of Terraria. Again: why? Like, OK, I get it: I’m old, and sometimes new technology baffles me. But I want someone to sit down and explain to me in what way, shape, or form playing literally any game is viable on a tiny ass smartwatch screen when you have a 4+ inch touchscreen in your pocket. The gifs on the page show games like Pong and Asteroids running, but don’t show how they are played. I can’t imagine any control scheme for these things what wouldn’t be obtuse or tedious as hell.
Then, finally, there’s the battery life. The Kickstarter page states that since there are so many ways you can use Gameband, they can’t really give a specific measurement for the battery life. They’re a bit coy about it, but smartwatches already have a battery problem—if your watch can’t stay alive for an entire day, then it’s utterly useless for most people. And if this thing is powerful enough to run games, there’s no way the battery will last anything beyond 5-7 hours, even with minimal use. Unless of course you turn Bluetooth/WiFi off, in which case your smartwatch is… kinda just a watch, at that point. A $200 one at that.
You could spend that money on quite a few other smartwatches that, while not sporting a big dumb processor or SD card expansion, provide more functionality for things like exercising and communication. Sure, you can’t play Pong on Android Wear, but why would you want to?
Smartwatches aren’t a dying market, in that they never really thrived to begin with. It wasn’t until manufacturers started focusing more on the fitness aspect that they started to take off. For me, a smartwatch is a simple device I can glance at to see if a notification is important before I pull out my phone. It allows me to discreetly check messages, control my music, navigate while I drive, and track my fitness. I can barely tolerate texting on the damn things, let alone playing a video game that requires precise input.
The Kickstarter page makes a lot of promises. They sell us a product that will, someday, provide amazing gaming experiences to your wrist. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single person that asked for this. Who looked at their smartwatch and said, “Mm, this is nice and all, but I really wish I could boot up some Asteroids on this thing right now.”? They never go into details on what the “mini-game” version of Terraria will be, but anyone interested in a portable version of Terraria already has the full damn game running on their phone. I just don’t get it. What’s the point? Who is this watch for? Why would anyone want this?
Having said all this, I will admit that the Gameband does intrigue me a little. Weird tech is interesting to me. I just don’t understand why this seems to be a thing so many people want. Maybe it’s just me; maybe I’m too skeptical of any sort of hardware that ends up on Kickstarter. If I’m missing something, please tell me, because I’m genuinely curious.