Interview

Devs responsible for how they implement our #actuallyfree Underground system, says Amazon

Devs responsible for how they implement our #actuallyfree Underground system, says Amazon

Following our opinion piece arguing that Amazon Underground is broken for F2P games, Amazon UK's Senior Kindle PR Manager Tarek El-Hawary got in touch with us to explain the company's internal perspective.

He explains that Amazon Underground is indeed beter suited to certain types of free-to-play game than others - effectively agreeing with what we said in our opinion piece.

But also suggests that developers are given ample feedback from Amazon on whether their games fits the bill.

Square peg

"Amazon Underground rewards minutes played so giving them all the content supports that directly. Because of this, there’s typically no gameplay impact when moving Premium and Entitlement IAP apps to Amazon Underground," says El-Hawary.

"Consumable IAP-based app developers should be thoughtful about their game design in this context. Some games are still really fun when players buy a lot of items so they work in Amazon Underground when everything is actually free."

"But, others aren’t well balanced if people buy a lot (like pay to win or player vs player games). Here are some tips we’ve posted."

Further explaining the motivation behind Amazon Underground and its "actually free" system in which developers are paid for every minute of player usage, El-Hawary cites a Wall Street Journal article which states "97% of consumers don’t convert."

For many developers, being paid for every minute a customer uses their app or game is an even better way to monetise.
Tarek El-Hawary

That's an unarguably tough situation for developers, and El-Hawary positions Underground as a way to combat this.

"For many developers, being paid for every minute a customer uses their app or game is an even better way to monetise. Using this model means developers immediately earn money from every customer who uses their Amazon Underground app or game," he says.

"Often developers have to design their game strategy around when customers level up or want more lives. Now, they can simply design around fun game mechanics and they will know that their app or game will make money."

Made to measure

From this, it seems that El-Hawary is referring to games specifically designed around the Amazon Underground platform.

This is a process that would almost certainly yield better results - just as our original argument pointed out the incompatibility between traditional F2P design and Underground - although we'd posit that it may take a while before the platform inspires developers' confidence to that extent.

However, some developers evidently are sold on the initiative. El-Hawary quotes a LinkedIn blog from Alok Kejriwal, for example, who runs the Indian studio Games2Win. Kejriwal summarises his support in three punchy bullet points.

The Amazon Underground manifesto in a nutshell

"Underground Is the best news for folks like us. Simply because:

  • It validates that 'time spent' is the most 'scalable, relevant and indexable' metric to reward mobile games consumption. While Amazon will directly compensate us today, that metric is more important that the modes of payment (ads/sponsorship) that will follow as a result of the metric being defined.
  • A Company like Amazon has put its $$$ on this meta thought. Others will follow!
  • Mobile Games will entertain the world. And we will be rewarded on the same (if not better) standards like other media options out there."

While nothing El-Hawary says explicitly refutes the idea that Underground is fundamentally unsuitable for some free-to-play games, there at least appears to be some kind of dialogue between Amazon and developers about game design and balancing for "actually free".

It's still early days for Underground, but if developers can be motivated to tweak their games accordingly - the likelihood of which is another debate for another time - then maybe we'll start to see the first true Amazon Underground success stories emerge.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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