In-Depth: Amazon Launches Casual Games Store
The store, currently live on Amazon's site, is launching in beta form with a casual games and download-only focus. Currently, neither in-browser games or core gamer-oriented titles are part of the plan.
To promote the launch, Amazon.com will be offering three free downloads: Jewel Quest, The Scruffs, and Build-a-Lot, out of a total starting library of over 600 games.
This store launch, with all games priced at $9.99 or less, directly follows Amazon's acquisition of casual game developer and distributor Reflexive in October 2008.
"We're very excited to be entering this space," Greg Hart, Amazon's vice president of video games and software, tells Gamasutra. "The intent of that [Reflexive.com] purchase is what you're going to see... to take their catalog of games... from companies across the casual game space, and offer them to our customers. We think that the demographic is a great fit for Amazon's customer base."
The decision to move into games also follows the "very good success" of its productivity software downloads, which began with tax software downloads and expanded its offerings over the course of 2008. Some of the technology that drives those downloads will also be used in a modified form by Amazon Game Downloads.
Room for More?
Is there room for Amazon in the already-crowded casual games market? "Sure, sure," says Hart. "A great example is when Amazon.com entered the traditional retail video game space two and a half years ago... obviously that was a very competitive and crowded space, but we've been very happy with our growth in that space."
"Certainly there is a lot of competition, and a lot of sites out there that do a very good job, but we think we bring a lot of things... certainly trust, and the convenience aspects... are all elements of the shopping experience that will carry over to casual game downloads very well."
Hart believes that usability will help attract its core customer base to download casual games as well as attract current casual gamers to make purchases on Amazon.com -- "In part because of the level of familiarity people already have with purchasing from Amazon and what that is like... and also because we've done some things that are unique in the casual games space, in terms of how we store their purchases for down the road."
"We have a games and software download library that stores a record of everything they've done in the software and game download space," he adds. "You can also enable download to remote PC... once you've installed the client to that computer, or queue it up to download on that computer."
What about DRM issues with multiple game downloads? "That'll all be driven by the individual publishers rather than by us," Hart says. "They'll have specific rules and the customer will have to [abide by] specific EULAs with their games."
Changes In Store?
Why focus specifically on casual games and avoid other markets, particularly core gamers? "At this time the offering is restricted to casual games because we think it's a good way to enter the market and learn what our customers expect from it," says Hart.
"We'll learn about the space, and in the future you can expect we will expand our selection," he adds. "Whether or not we go into core PC games is to be determined. A lot of that will be driven by the customer feedback we receive, and if people want to see us go in that direction."
Another thing that may be in flux is whether or not Amazon will offer browser games on the site. While so far that is not the plan, Hart says, "...this is a beta, so we expect to expand the functionality and the games we offer over time."
Hart believes that the titles reflect a "broad spectrum" of titles that will "continue to expand," thanks to Reflexive.com's relationships in the industry.