Amazon Underground Makes Free-to-Play Games Free

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On Wednesday, Amazon decided that it was going to totally scrap their Free App of the Day feature that has been one of the biggest draws to the Amazon Appstore since its launch back in March 2011. It’s a bummer to see it go, but Amazon has replaced the somewhat criticized feature with a brand new app that brings a lot more to the table: Amazon Underground.

Amazon Underground

Free-to-play (F2P) games washed ashore the mobile gaming scene like the biggest tsunami the world has ever seen, and has been dominating the industry ever since. F2P games are seemingly great for players because they don’t have to pay any money to download them. Instead, developers make money from the game through ad revenue or in-app purchases. This sounds great until you let your more cynical side of thinking take over and begin thinking about how game developers can easily design games around in-app purchases.

The Amazon Underground app is going to turn the F2P business model on its head, however. It’s a new app by Amazon that lets users play F2P games without having to worry about being constantly bombarded by ads urging users to spend real money for in-game currency. How does Amazon plan to do this? By paying for those transactions for the player.

”Actually Free”

In a letter to customers Amazon stated, “We’ve made this possible by working out a new business model with app and game developers: we’re paying them a certain amount on a per-minute played basis in exchange for them waving their normal in-app fees.”

This lets players experience the game without the developer constantly dangling a carrot on a stick in front of them the whole time. Most players usually don’t spend any money at all on in-game items, but every game has about one percent of their players who spend so much money that they can keep the game afloat alone. People like this are referred to as “whales” in the mobile gaming scene, and they can spend thousands of dollars a month on in-app currency alone.

Amazon is going to be paying developers $.002 per-minute of usage in the US. This doesn’t seem like much at all until you realize that an app that has one million players can easily make around $2,000 in just about a minute of gameplay. For newer games, this may provide a nice steady stream of revenue, but it’s unknown whether or not more popular games can benefit from a revenue model like this. Amazon has published a revenue calculator for developers interested in finding out whether Amazon Underground will be a lucrative solution for their app.

But Is It Any Good?

To kick things off, Amazon Underground has some pretty decent apps on-board. Games like Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Goat Simulator, and more are fan favorites that will easily perk up the attention of mobile gamers. The biggest problem Amazon faces is getting those players to migrate from Google’s Play Store over to their Amazon Underground and Appstore.

Players will need to download these apps directly from Amazon in order for the developers and players to reap any of the benefits of the app. Previously, the biggest complaint coming from Amazon Appstore users is that developers tend to not update apps on Amazon’s platform. Hopefully, this is an issue that Amazon will remedy with Amazon Underground.

Unfortunately for iOS users, due to Apple’s stance on installing third-party apps, Amazon Underground is on Android only for the time being.