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Amazon Underground turns free-to-play into "actually free"

Online retailer program pays publishers per-minute for Android customers' use of games and apps

Amazon knows mobile gamers don't always like free-to-play business models, so the online retailer has launched a program to make those games actually free to play. The company this week rolled out Amazon Underground, an addition to the retailer's shopping app that gives users access to a library of free-to-play and premium games and apps they can use without charge.

However, the publishers of those apps are still being compensated for their work. But instead of collecting the money from the end users, they have agreed to be waive their regular in-app fees in order to be paid a set amount by Amazon for each minute people use the games or apps.

Amazon says it is providing players with more than $10,000 in content through the program. The lineup includes apps like OfficeSuite Professional 8 and PhotoSuite Pro 4, as well as games like Goat Simulator, Disney's Frozen Free Fall, and Angry Birds Slingshot Stella.

The program is only available to Android users, and because Google Play doesn't allow apps that offer other apps, those interested will need to download the Underground app directly from Amazon. In addition, those with Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets will automatically get access to Underground titles.

"The Amazon Undergound app is a long-term program rather than a one-off promotion," the retailer said. "Over time, we'll continue to invent and add more benefits to Underground."

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Latest comments (4)

Tom Pickard Founder and Creative Director, Knifey Spoonie Games2 years ago
This could be great or terrible.... It's great if lots of people play your game for ages over a long period of time, it also means you can design a game to be a game. Rather than designing it around specific mechanics rather than game play... But... it all depends on how many people will use the system and how much per minute your making. We could end up with a system where only a hand full of games make any real money whilst everyone else actually loses out on revenue they would have got from IAP's from dedicated players... But it's an interesting thing to try.
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Gareth Martin Senior Programmer, Epic Games2 years ago
Apparently it will be paid for by advertising: "it will show advertising when apps first launch, and sometimes when they are launched or resumed by a user."

So this is just amazon convincing developers to go ad-supported instead of in-app-purchase-supported, effectively.
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André Bernhardt Free Bird, IndieAdvisor2 years ago
How does Amazon actually earn any money with this? Are they just trying to increase the installed base for their third party shop or will the show ads?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by André Bernhardt on 27th August 2015 5:17pm

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Show all comments (4)
@Tom I dunno, I worry it could pretty exclusionary with the payment rate what it is. Such a deal pre-supposes all games are service-based, infinitely replayable F2P games that never end & have millions of users? Our games last 2-4 hours, we'd be crucified.
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