Garmin Made an ESports Fitness Smartwatch for Streamers

I hate this so much.

I hate this so much.
Image: Garmin

No one:

Absolutely no one:

Garmin: What’s up fam, it’s ya boi Garmin here with a new GPS esports smartwatch that you can use to livestream your biometric stats on Twitch or whatever it is you use to stream you crushing your opponents!

I wish I were joking, but 2020 continues to test everyone’s sanity. Garmin has actually launched the Instinct Esports Edition, a “rugged GPS smartwatch uniquely designed for esports athletes and enthusiasts to take their gaming performance to the next level.” How is that possible, you ask? Well, for starters, the watch adds an esports activity for tracking so you can monitor your heart rate and stress during a game. Garmin also developed a new PC streaming tool that’s called, sigh, STR3AMUP!, so you can create overlays that let viewers know your heart rate, stress, and “body battery” level in realtime. Did I mention this watch is also $300?

Illustration for article titled Garmin Made an Esports Fitness Smartwatch for Streamers Because We Live in Hell

“Elite athletes around the world depend on Garmin products to monitor and improve their performance,” Garmin’s VP of Sales Dan Bartel said in the press release.

This, so far, is a true statement. The following is more dubious.

“With the Instinct Esports Edition, esports athletes can tap into that same technology to track and examine how their body responds to intense competition. Players can also use Instinct’s data to make adjustments in their daily lives, whether it be altering sleep patterns or activity levels, which can result in increased cognitive and physical performance during play.”

There is a lot to unpack there. While elite esports athletes do train, my impression is that they aren’t spending hours riding dirt bikes, running marathons with gaming keyboards strapped to their chests, or scuba diving mid-competition. I’m not saying all esports players are schlubby basement gremlins who don’t engage in any physical activity at all. There’s coverage disproving that, and sports-like training is already happening among some elite esports teams. What I’m saying is a rugged outdoors GPS smartwatch built to military-grade standards, primarily targeted at triathletes, is overkill for gamers.

The Instinct Esports Editions specs are truly bananas. This watch has a transflective screen, which is normally found in watches geared toward outdoor activity for visibility under direct sunlight. It’s also rated for 10 ATM of water resistance, or a depth of 330 feet. That is double the rating that is widely considered safe for swimming. In terms of sensors, it also sports a compass, barometric altimeter, and thermometer on top of the usual accelerometer and built-in GPS. Like I said: Overkill.

The idea of stress-tracking is kind of cool—except most stress features aren’t built for real-time monitoring. They’re more related to how much your body has physically recovered from the previous day’s activities. According to Garmin’s own website, the watch monitors stress using heart rate variability data. HRV is essentially the time in between heartbeats, and as explained by Harvard Medical School, this metric is controlled by the body’s autonomic nervous system, which is further divided into your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. So yes, Garmins give you a stress score based on that, but in my experience testing wearables, this sort of HRV-based “stress score” doesn’t always reflect how a stressful event mentally may impact me physically in real time.

Likewise, the body battery function is meant to be an indicator of how much “juice” you’ve got left in your system based on your heart rate data throughout the day. In my humble opinion, this is a more useful feature for planning your workout intensity or schedule than evaluating in real time if a player is going to perform well. More importantly, these metrics are private and nobody’s freaking business.

Are biometrics something fans really want to see as an overlay on a stream? Are you really going to watch the “health bar” of your favorite gamer or are you going to watch the actual gameplay? Some elite athletes definitely use wearables to track performance, but…the last thing I want is to have an overlay of Simone Biles’ heart rate on an Olympic broadcast while she does her floor routine? Pretty sure I, as a viewer, do not care to analyze LeBron’s heart rate stats during a basketball game. That’s his trainer’s job, and incredibly invasive. The broadcast function seems like a tacked-on feature to monetize and GaM3RiZ3 this particular watch at the expense of the gamer in question’s health and wellbeing.

Perhaps I’m completely wrong and the esports community will buy 4,000 of these and Garmin can shoot me a video of themselves swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in a pile of esports money. If so, please, please, please delete me from this timeline.

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