Online retailer Amazon has been showing signs of entering the social games market. Don’t everyone cheer at once, now.
This isn’t strictly new territory for Amazon. The company has been in the games market since 2008, when it purchased Reflexive Entertainment, the developers behind Big Kahuna and Airport Mania 2. As a corporation, Amazon has also been dabbling in digital game distribution, and even though its presence isn’t nearly as impressive as Steam’s, it still matches or beats Steam’s prices whenever possible.
And recently, Amazon hired RPG designer Jonathan Tweet to work on a social game for it. Tweet’s Resume includes the classic pen-and-paper role-playing games Dungeons & Dragons: 3rd Edition, and Atlas’s Ars Magica. He has also worked on Facebook games for Gamehouse.
No doubt Amazon is gearing up to make a dent in Zynga’s social games empire…but can a single game, even a game from an online business titan like Amazon, make that much of an impact? IndustryGamers.com writer Steve Peterson brings up some good points in his own write-up of Amazon’s ambitions: Running into the fray with only one weapon isn’t a smart idea. Even the best gun can fail at a crucial time, and being caught without back-up can prove disastrous.
“[S]ocial game companies (such as Zynga) typically depend on having multiple game titles to cross-market to their customer base,” Peterson wrote. “When players get bored with one of their social games, they can entice them into another one. Current customers are the best prospective customers for other games you offer. Amazon should know that unless they plan to enter the social gaming market in a big way, with significant marketing and multiple games, they would be unlikely to have any great success.”
But, as Peterson also points out, Amazon’s plans for the social games market may well go beyond throwing a single contender into the ring. For instance, Amazon has the rights to 47 books by the famous crime writer, Ed McBain (real name: Evan Hunter). It’s also pushing to create its own App Store, and there’s the very possible arrival of an Amazon Android tablet in 2011, which could prove to be a nice vessel for a unique, “grown-up” take on a social game based on McBain’s works.
Whatever Amazon trots out still probably won’t be enough on its own to hobble Zynga. but it could potentially be more interesting for anyone who’s not taken by big-eyed farmers and city-builders.