Social games are hot! People of all ages are now playing games with their friends on their mobile devices, on Facebook, and on other social networks. Many people dismiss these games as trivial because they’re designed for casual users. Some of the most popular social games are Farmville and Words with Friends (by Zynga), Texas HoldEm Poker, and the Sims Social (Electronic Arts), among many others.
Amazon Game Studio’s Living Classics
© 2012 Amazon Game Studios
1. Amazon Game Studio’s first social game is Living Classics—a Facebook game based on classic children’s stories. You click on moving objects to earn points and move to the next level.
What all of these games have in common is that you can play them anywhere, on your device(s) of choice, you can often play them online or offline, you can share your progress with friends, and/or you can invite them to join you asynchronously or synchronously.
Last week, Amazon announced a new business unit, Amazon Game Studios, and its first social game: Living Classics. As soon as I saw this announcement, I was intrigued because I believe that social gaming is one of THE big things. It’s not trivial. It’s important. It’s not only a fast-growing industry (growing much faster and bigger than traditional video games). But it’s also empowering a very human need for people to play, learn, and share together.
Digging deeper into the Amazon announcement, I came to the conclusion that Amazon is about to join Facebook, Apple, Google, Zynga, Microsoft, et al., in providing a social gaming ecosystem for game developers and consumers.
Support Cross-Platform Social Games
What intrigues me about this strategic direction for Amazon is that it fills a very real need for both consumers and developers: the ability to play the same game across a variety of platforms: You might be using your iPhone, your friends might be on Facebook, your cousin is using an Android—but you’re all able to participate in the same game.
Provide Consumers with 1-Click Purchasing of Virtual Goods
Social games are primarily monetized by selling virtual goods that let players advance more quickly. (You can also use advertising and subscriptions.) Those of us who use Apple devices and software pay for things with our iTunes account. Those of us who buy a lot from Amazon use our 1-Click accounts for a lot of things. Amazon’s payment system is currently more flexible. You can alternate among many different types of payment, including your checking account, debit card, and multiple credit cards and/or Paypal. The ability to use a single payment system for all gaming-related purchases—both across and within games—is attractive. Capturing these payments is not trivial. According to InStat, worldwide revenue for virtual goods in 2010 was $7.3 billion and is expected to double to more than $14 billion by 2014.
Provide Developers with Needed Gaming Application Services and APIs.
I would expect Amazon to be very present at all the gaming conferences this year. Matt Woods and others have been evangelizing the use of Amazon’s cloud computing infrastructure for social gaming. But now I expect there to be a bigger push, as Amazon Web Services and the Amazon Game Studios and the Android App team provide higher-level application services that all games need right out of the box. These services will include leader boards, in-game and cross-game chat, game play synchronization across platforms, e-/m-commerce, as well as distributed virtual computing and non-SQL databases optimized for gaming applications. Zynga grew much of its business using Amazon’s cloud. In 2011, Zynga decided to roll its own infrastructure—Z-Cloud. But Zynga still uses Amazon’s EC2 to handle its unpredictable peak traffic loads.
Educate Yourself on Social Gaming
Whether or not you agree with me that Amazon is going to make a big push into social gaming, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to understand this phenomenon better. The two resources I found most useful are this Wikipedia post on Social Network Games, and a really insightful presentation by Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell. Among the most interesting things I learned from watching Ilkka’s talk were:
1. How user engagement shifts from starting out with your current Facebook network of friends and then moving onto create a new in-game network of friends—many of whom were not IN your social network before.
2. How user engagement grows from solo playing (share what you’re doing with 2 friends), to asynchronous multi-player (engage with 7 friends), to real-time cooperative multiplayer (engage with 48 friends) to player vs. player multiplayer gaming—with teams playing against teams (155 friends).
3. How social games are monetized—moving from $0.03/day for solo gamers up to $0.30/day for player vs. player multiplayer gaming.
Social Gaming: Great Example of a Customer Ecosystem!
If I’m right about Amazon’s strategic intent, then we’ll keep following these developments. When it comes to designing and evolving customer-centric ecosystems, Amazon’s DNA is a good fit. I also trust Jeff Bezos’ instincts when it comes to figuring out how to transform industries!
Will Amazon.com Emerge as a Viable Gaming Platform?
Enabling Platform-Agnostic Social Gaming Customer Ecosystems
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO and Senior Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group, August 16, 2012
NETTING IT OUT
In early August 2012, Amazon introduced Amazon Game Studios—to develop and distribute games, including social networking games. Could this be the first play in a strategic bet that Amazon is placing: to join Facebook, Zynga, et al. in providing a gaming ecosystem?
Amazon already offers consumers the convenience of one-click purchasing using their payment type of choice for in-game purchases. Amazon’s elastic cloud already hosts the majority of the fastest-growing online gaming segment: social games. Just as Amazon makes it easy for small merchants to offer their wares using Amazon’s e-commerce Web services and logistics, Amazon could also make it easier for game developers to develop and deploy games across a variety of social platforms, including Facebook
© 2012 Amazon Game Studios
2. The Amazon Game Studio “platform” has social networking built in. Notice Sarah at the bottom, next to me (Patty)? Sarah is not a Facebook friend of mine. She is someone who happened to also be playing Living Classics at the same time. With social games, you can make new “in-game” friends as well as invite the friends in your current network to play along.