Even before last year’s dramatic Kindle Fire debut, Amazon had its sights set on mobile gaming. The Amazon Appstore for Google Android smartphones and tablets was founded on the idea that Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market, and others had the right idea in selling independently developed mobile games directly to consumers but they fail to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Amazon said that its secret to selling apps and game is acting as curator. According to some developers on the platform, the experiment has worked. TinyCo, the developer behind iOS/Android best-seller Tiny Village, said in April that the Amazon Appstore generates more money per user than iTunes.
Now Amazon is entering a second phase of catering to game developers on not just the Amazon Appstore, but the Kindle tablet platform as well. On Tuesday Amazon announced GameCircle, a new set of services for game developers to ease creation and the process of getting games up on Amazon’s storefront. “GameCircle will make achievements, leaderboards, and sync APIs (application programming interfaces) simple and quick for you to integrate, and will give gamers a more seamless and entertaining in-game experience,” reads that company’s announcement.
For Kindle Fire owners out there that like to play games on their tablet, this means that you’ll now have access to a centralized set of features that will save game progress regardless of what device you’re playing on and give you access to social features. It’s not quite Xbox Live, but it is at least comparable to Apple’s Game Center.
Game Center, despite growing to more than 67 million users since opening in late 2010, has never gained quite captured its full potential audience. There are well over 100 million iPhones out in the wild, and more than 67 million iPads. How will Amazon use GameCircle as a method to drive gaming and game sales on its platforms? How will it succeed where Apple’s failed?
GameCircle’s priority at this point is parity. Offer developers and players comparable tools. Growth can wait. If new reports are to be believed, Amazon’s priority with its mobile businesses isn’t software expansion but hardware. Rumors of an Amazon phone have re-emerged this week, and the company is no doubt banking on that device becoming a similar success to the Kindle Fire. Once Amazon has more devices in people’s hands, its app and game support through services like GameCircle will grow at a natural pace. With an audience established, then it can think about one-upping Apple and others in the service and community departments.