Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
September 19, 2014
arrowPress Releases
September 19, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Analysis: What Kindle Fire Means For Game Developers
Analysis: What Kindle Fire Means For Game Developers
September 28, 2011 | By Kris Graft

September 28, 2011 | By Kris Graft
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing

[On Wednesday morning, Amazon lit up the internet by revealing the reasonably-priced, Android-based Kindle Fire. So what exactly does a suped-up e-reader offer game developers? Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft investigates.]

Revealing the Kindle Fire on Wednesday in New York, online retailer Amazon didn't just introduce an update to its e-reader line -- it also unveiled its first real hardware contender to the mobile gaming market.

Sure, there are already thousands of games available on the current Kindles, like Electronic Arts' Scrabble (and many other EA games), Spry Fox's Triple Town and Big Fish Games' Hidden Object: Expedition.

These are all fine games, depending your tastes, but ultimately most of these games -- minus a few -- were shoehorned onto a slow-refreshing monochrome screen meant to display text.

The new Kindle Fire makes a deliberate move at being more of a multimedia device, with improved music features, the ability to watch videos, play games and, of course, read books and magazines in color. All of these features are facilitated by a 7-inch color multi-touch LCD screen, 1GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP4 CPU, wi-fi capabilities and access to the Amazon Appstore.

The most obvious advantage that the new Kindle Fire will have over its competitors is the price tag. At $199, it beats Barnes & Noble's Android-based, $249 Nook Color (which incidentally, also has Angry Birds), and easily beats the price of the more feature-rich Apple iPad 2, which starts at $499.

A price that low makes the current, reasonably-priced monochrome Kindles look downright overpriced, never mind the newly-announced base $79 budget Kindle. Combine Amazon's promotional power (the retailer is already throwing the device in the face of every visitor), that nice price tag, plus a shipping date (November 15) just before the Black Friday shopping rush this year, and there's a potential to put this device in a lot of hands.

And big installed bases are always good for a game developer looking to reach a wide audience. A report from IDC earlier this year estimated that Kindle models accounted for nearly half of the 12.8 million e-reader shipments worldwide in 2010, leading the category.

If game developers eventually find the install base appealing enough, they can port their Android games over to the the Android-based device, and sell it on Amazon's Appstore for Android, whose game offerings are lacking in comparison to the older, gargantuan Apple App Store. (We won't go too deep into Amazon's controversial pricing practices.)

Downloadable gaming aside, being an Android-based device, Amazon confirmed the Kindle Fire and its fancy Amazon Silk "cloud-accelerated" browser will support Adobe's Flash player, which gives game developers another potential venue for web games. And no, iPad still does not support Flash.

But the device also poses some disadvantages for game developers. The low price sacrifices features that mobile gamers have come to expect from their hardware, such as 3G support (yes, it's not even quite mobile -- yet) to download a game "anywhere," no gyroscopic sensors (sorry Doodle Jump/racing game fans), no mic and no camera (ARG!, are you serious?!).

Luckily, the 7-inch, 1024x600 screen is multi-touch (even though it is smaller than an iPad 2's 9.7" screen) and the Fire comes packed with a dual core processor that will be able to do more than puzzle and hidden object games.

Who knows when the next Kindle Fire will arrive and add some more game-friendly features... Well, that could be sooner than you think. Completely unconfirmed rumors suggest that the Kindle Fire is just a holiday hold-over for a Kindle Fire follow-up from Amazon. So a more feature-rich Fire in early 2012 could be boon for game developers, but pretty annoying to holiday 2011 adopters.

For now though, the middle-of-the-road price, dual-core processor and the nice, mid-sized multitouch screen will be enough to draw game developers to the Kindle Fire. Votes of confidence from PopCap with a Fire version of Plants vs. Zombies and Rovio with Angry Birds may help to lead the way.

In terms of features, the Kindle Fire may pale in comparison to the more expensive iPad 2 and its gigantic library of games, or larger-screened, more expensive full Android devices.

Is the Kindle Fire a sure bet for game developers? Nothing is -- just look at the Nook Color, another cheaper-than-an-iPad Android-based e-reader, and its lacking game offerings. But the power of Amazon's publicity, low price and a healthy installed base could beckon game developers to test out Kindle Fire's clear blue waters down the line.

Related Jobs

Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States

Software Engineer-Vicarious Visions
Mixamo — San Francisco, California, United States

Animation Outsource Manager
Phosphor Games Studio
Phosphor Games Studio — Chicago, Illinois, United States

Game Producer
Trion Worlds
Trion Worlds — Redwood City, California, United States

Senior Gameplay Engineer


Robert Ferris
profile image
"the more feature-rich Apple iPad 2,"

That's got to be one of the biggest understatements of the year. This isn't competition for the iPad, it's filling a perceived hole in the market.

Michael DeFazio
profile image
i'll admit the videos showing the device in action are nice (the device seems snappy and the touch screen seems responsive).

the fact there are no buttons on the device other than the power button, and no gyroscope limits it as a gaming platform. (the only viable games are touch screen as their only input.)

...lets see what the early adopters think, it still seems to me a "color kindle + amazon cloud + angry birds"... and that could very well be enough for many people.

hoping Fire gets enough traction to warrant a Fire 2 (Holiday 2012?) ...with additional functionality (screen resolution, and additional input mechanisms, with more functionality built into honeycomb)

...sure would be nice to develop for a "lead platform" on android with a large install base, (android fragmentation is hell).

also i'll bet the custom firm-ware crowd is salivating at the $200.00 price point.

Rey Samonte
profile image
This is exciting news as it gives developers another platform to develop on. However, I'm most excited to start tinkering with the Sony tablets and/or Vita. Although, I wished the price for those pieces of hardware was comparible to this one's.

Kim Pallister
profile image
Quite surprised this article didn't call out Amazon's controversial app pricing/promotion the IGDA called out a while back. Amazon's promotional page for the Kindle Fire calls out their promotions that have had mixed results for developer. ( : "Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, The Weather Channel and more, plus a great paid app for free every day.")

Kris Graft
profile image
I did actually did specifically mention and link to our past coverage of the controversial pricing practices -- I just didn't get into those details in this particular analysis.

Ryan Creighton
profile image
Agreed! i wanna hear the straight dope on what the IGDA decried as predatory practices before i'll find a ten foot pole suitable for stoking the Fire.

Derek James
profile image
Just a small correction...

All the coverage I've read indicates that the Kindle Fire does not run Honeycomb, but a customized version of a 2.x version, most likely 2.3 (Gingerbread).

I'm an existing Android game dev, and so far sales on the Amazon market are pretty lame. A large part of that is the clunkiness of installing the Amazon Appstore on a device. I'm excited to see a mass market Android device with the Amazon Appstore preinstalled, as it might actually make that market viable.

Kris Graft
profile image
Ah yes, Derek, you're right. There was a conflicting report on that which appears to have been updated. And yeah... as an Android user I'm aware of the clunkiness you're referring to.