Is Amazon Underground the answer to Indian developers’ monetisation woes?

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When it comes to gaming, its the M word that’s used more as a cuss word than the F word, yes you guessed it right – monetisation! For years now monetisation has been the biggest worrying factor for game developers, even more than managing their grades in college or taking out time to help out in household chores.

India as a market for gaming is still very nascent, although a lot of progress has been made over the past decade –  thanks to some thought leaders and evangelising conferences like NASSCOM’s Game developers Conference, which has been an annual gig for the past seven years and counting.

But, there have been some major issues in the gaming ecosystem which are slowly but steadily being dealt with. The three key attributes that are essential for a game to succeed are – discoverability, high retention numbers and monetisation. All three of them are connected at the hip, wherein, if the app is getting featured among the top 50 games in a genre or region, then that will lead to more users having the opportunity to test it and if the game is good enough then the retention numbers will be high, which will further lead to better monetisation capabilities for the developer through ways of in-app purchases or using a reward or try and buy model, whichever suits best for the game in question.

Although theoretically, everything looks black and white on paper…only 1-2 per cent of nearly 10,000 games actually go onto become successful IPs, and only about 1-2 per cent of those IPs go onto become a successful brand like an Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

So what is the answer to developer’s woes of monetisation for their creations of hard work and countless hours in front of their monitors? Well, it can’t be the only answer, but it certainly can be one of them! It’s Amazon Underground!

What is Amazon Underground?

Amazon Underground is a new app for Android phones which has all of the functionality of a regular Amazon mobile shopping app, with a few exciting additions: over ten thousand dollars in apps, games and in-app items that are actually free for its customers.

Amazon Underground includes a new monetization model where Amazon pays developers based on the amount of time your app is used. With Amazon Underground, one can turn 100 per cent of his/her Android users into revenue generating customers. One gets paid starting from the very first minute your Amazon Underground app is used, and will continue to be paid for every minute of use by every customer in exchange for the developer waiving the normal download or in-app fees.  With Amazon Underground, the developer can focus less on monetising and more on creating great user experiences.


Why is Amazon Underground’s success important to Indian game developers?

Amazon Underground’s success could lead to making mobile gaming an actual platform worth investing in, than simply be a place where you ‘Quick Cash Grab’ and make a run for it. The free-to-play model of gaming has actually led to creating many haters, as all one end up doing to progress and stay ahead amongst one’s peers is spending more than you ever would if you bought the game to begin with. This set up inspires the thousands of Bejewelled clones we have to sift through because the formula is perfect for getting people to shell out.

If you look at Amazon Underground’s system, it will force developers to make games that have better quality and replay value. Free-to-play games like Candy-Crush and Juice Jam (or insert any unimaginative rehash of a match three game) rely on psychological tricks to keep one engaged.

Think about it for a second, what happens when you binge on something? It becomes less appetising to you, doesn’t it? But what you can’t have always gets you kicked to get it, right? This app will make developers to think and bring those two concepts together and create this potent little psychological trick that can hook anyone!

What will truly work in the Amazon Underground system are games that are well put together, RPGs, visual novels, time-consuming games that are actually good and not endless money making clones. If Amazon Underground manages to get enough takers from the game development community, I am very confident that gaming on tablets will become more than a casual gamer’s hobby and will only add to the growth in the colossal mobile app market in India.

Roadblocks for Amazon Underground to succeed

Amazon Underground is a great idea if people use it, but you can’t download it in the Google AppStore (Of course, now why would Google back its competition right?) Thus, if you wish to get the app you have to install it via a third party and it will also require some messing around with the setting to allow it to work. Although I have a feeling Google must already have put a development team at work to ensure Amazon’s value offering to budding developers becomes harder to access in the very near future.

Amazon Underground isn’t available in every country as well. Here is a list of where it is available, (Yay! it’s available in India) and yes its not available in China, which isn’t surprising considering Google itself is blocked there and everyone uses Baidu for the most part; however, if Amazon Underground manages to sneek behind this great wall, it would be a major boost for its already sizable user base.

Amazon isn’t exactly an unknown in the world of the internet, but when you have the AppStore pre-loaded on your Android tablet, getting people to try your app especially when it’s a large download, is hard. Google definitely has an advantage on that front, but that can be overcome with persistence. All Amazon Underground needs at this point in time is more developers to trust it as a viable platform for their games. And who knows maybe there is a young developer out there, who could well be the next big thing for gaming to really kick on in India!

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