Amazon’s New Game Studio Targets Facebook First, but Mobile Is Next

Published on August 7, 2012
by Tricia Duryee

Amazon has launched its first game on Facebook, but don’t expect the e-commerce giant to stop there.

Over the past two months, the company has made several announcements in the videogame space, signaling its move beyond music, video and e-books in the digital content arena.

Yesterday, it went a step further by announcing the creation of Amazon Game Studios and launching Living Classics, its first free-to-play game on Facebook. Next up, expect Amazon to create mobile games to leverage its current and upcoming line of Kindle tablets.

Living Classics on Facebook is a take on the hidden objects genre on the platform, where users must find a handful of items obscured in a painting. In this game genre, which Amazon calls “moving objects,” users must quickly find all the illustrations that are moving on the screen. As part of the game, you must also find several foxes who have wandered off to explore their favorite books. Amazon makes money from charging for coins that allow the player to advance more quickly through the game.

The timing of Amazon’s entrance into social gaming is odd.

Facebook’s insanely fast growth period is over, and even dominant players, like Zynga, are struggling. But clearly the company, which has no prior experience in developing games, had to start somewhere. And with 8.3 million “Likes” on Facebook, it’s probably hoping to gain a big audience quickly.

By launching its own games, it will also give the company first-hand knowledge in how to build a platform that really works for developers.

Ever since the Kindle Fire launched, game developers have been satisfied with how well their games monetize on the device, saying that it often outperforms Google Play on Android, although it falls short of Apple’s iOS. Part of Amazon’s success is that it already has a consumer’s credit card on file, making it easy for them to buy an e-book one day and a virtual item the next.

Last month, Amazon launched GameCircle, which allows gamers on the Kindle Fire to record and track their achievements and to save their game progress to the cloud — similar to features found in Apple’s Game Center. Plus, it launched Game Connect, an e-commerce distribution system that lets customers discover and download free-to-play PC games. Amazon is also handling some of the back-end features for the developers, such as selling virtual goods and subscriptions.

In an announcement released yesterday, Amazon wrote, “Why is Amazon making social games, you ask? Good question! We know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games — including free-to-play social games — and thanks to Amazon’s know-how, we believe we can deliver a great, accessible gaming experience that gamers and our customers can play any time.”

The company’s Game Studios has employees in both Seattle and San Francisco, and is hiring in Seattle, according to a spokeswoman.

With the prospect of launching even more tablets, which are competing head-to-head with Apple’s iPad, having exclusive content on the devices also helps.

When asked for more information on why Amazon is interested in gaming, a company spokeswoman provided a vague statement about delighting customers and the company’s ability to deliver a great, accessible and fun gaming experience. She also said to stay tuned for even more games, but provided no details on where those games will land. But it’s safe to say they will be on both Facebook and mobile in the future.

Here’s a trailer for the game:

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