July 22, 2015Judith Hoffmann
Ever wondered how to create a game with no coding experience? Whether to build a native app or a web app? What monetization model to choose for your business? Dev Chat – Short Answers to Big Questions, is a new video series created by Amazon Appstore in which successful apps and games developers answer your questions in under 90 seconds.
In this edition, Rosie Linder, CEO and Co-Founder of Stockholm-based Peppy Pals, shares her journey from being a mom of two girls with no coding experience to the CEO of an award-winning gaming studio.[Read More]
During the indie developer showcase, hosted by Amazon as part of Quo Vadis game conference during International Games Week Berlin, local developers shared with us their experience getting their games onto the Amazon Appstore, as well as useful tips for other developers.
German developer SlashGames creates high-quality browser and mobile games, as well as consulting in software development, software engineering and producing. For Amazon, they showcased Freudbot, a single player mobile game following a supermarket employee and giving him ‘good’ advice to overcome his problems.
Black Pants Studio demoed their game About Love, Hate and the Other Ones, a fun puzzle game in which, according to PR Manager Florian Masuth, you “influence your surroundings by the force of hate and the power of love [to] find a way through caves and ice, castles and factories”.
Berlin-based publisher Exozet implement popular board games, such as Catan, and have newly implemented Carcasonne for Fire TV as showcase especially for this event. Their premium and free-to-play games are available on all major platforms, from mobile over console to facebook and browser.
Amongst the developers we had Black Moon Design, hailing from near-by Poland, with their fast action, HTML5 game Aliens Attack which “runs really well on FireTV” according to founder Robert Podgorski. Inspired by C64 and classic sci-fi movies from the 60s, Black Moon Design’s mission is to bring fun to players’ lives.
Also from Poland are NowaHutaGames, who presented their game Rounded Strategy. Wanting to make strategy games accessible to everyone, NowaHutaGames target casual and mid-core players instead of the usual hard-core gamers. As a result, Rounded Strategy is a mobile-first strategy game with an extremely low entry point.
Unavailable for video interviews, but with great games nonetheless, were Mimimi Productions with their games daWindci, a highly praised 2.5D mobile puzzle game, and Ooops! Noah is Gone, inspired by the same-named animated movie in which the cuddly characters go on a great adventure and form genuine friendships. The 3-man team Studio Fizbin, focusing on story-based games and original and unique characters, worlds and tales, showcased their tablet game the Inner World, which won the Casual Connect “Indie Prize 2013”, amongst other awards. Finally, Hamburg-based Threaks presented their demo game Beatbuddy on Fire TV, though the game is not yet publicly available on Amazon devices.
Echoed by all developers that we interviewed was the claim that launching on Amazon Fire TV was very easy. Porting their Android app onto the Amazon Appstore was “like a breeze”, explains Jakub Bladek from NowaHutaGames and adds: “We did it in an hour.” Black Moon Design had a similar experience; after adding Gamepad support, “all of a sudden it worked like charms”. Using the App Testing Service, Nick Prühs from Slash Games remarks that “it worked without us doing anything. […] We were live in an hour or two.”
For Black Pants Studio, apart from porting being easy, the showcase represented a first introduction to the Amazon platform: “Being approached by Amazon made us realize that for new games we can think about putting them straight onto your store when we launch.” Similarly, Robert Podgorski from Back Moon Design points out that the Amazon Appstore is a valid alternative platform for Android games and adds that “Making games for Fire TV and seeing them on the big screen is really good, so consider that.” Linda Kerkhoff, developer at Exozet, seconds that and suggests that developers consider the living room as a new market to attract customers, as “it’s not such an effort to build the game from the device to the TV.”
Finally, Nick Prühs emphasizes the importance of having a good core mechanic. “What is really important is that you iterate very soon and very often”, Prühs explains, “make sure the core is fun and then iterate.” Jakub Bladek goes a step further. He admits that they screwed up their first version and therefore got two bad ratings, so his advice to other developers it to “be sure to have your first release finished 100%” before publishing.
With more than 10 events in one week, International Games Week Berlin, one of Europe’s biggest game-focused events, connects game business, technology and culture. From April 21 to 26, gaming experts will come together in Berlin, Germany, to discuss key industry trends and topics. As a sponsor of International Games Week Berlin and a premium partner at Quo Vadis, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet the Amazon Appstore team in person.
On Tuesday, April 21, we are hosting a free half-day developer day with Amazon’s technical evangelists Paul Cutsinger and Simon Howard. After an introduction to the Amazon Appstore, Fire TV and Fire Phone and tablets, Paul and Simon will talk to you about
Be sure to submit your app or game or test your APK today! Paul and Simon will be on hand during the day and throughout the week to answer your questions and get your apps live and in front of millions of customers! Register on the workshop’s Eventbrite page to secure your place!
From April 21-23 the Amazon team will at Quo Vadis, in front of the auditorium at the Kino International. Germany’s biggest gaming conference gathered more than 2,500 visitors last year and is sure to be a success in 2015 with their fantastic speaker line-up.
Can’t make it to Games Week? Check out where the team will be next. More information on our events page.
Having an Amazon Fire TV and the LAOLA1.tv app will come in very handy this weekend! One of the most-watched football games in the world, El Clasico, is taking place this Sunday, March 22nd. Spanish rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will face each other, along with hundreds of millions of supporting fans worldwide. Previously available online and via mobile devices through video on demand only, LAOLA1.tv decided to tap into a new segment by distributing unique content live on the big screen. LAOLA1.tv and Amazon are offering customers in Germany exclusive television coverage of El Clásico with the LAOLA1.tv app on Amazon Fire TV. Plus, the game will be free to watch on mobile devices for Amazon Appstore customers in Germany and Austria.
“We know we can reach millions of customers through ConnectedTV, especially via Fire TV, and monetize well on Amazon Appstore, therefore we decided to double down our investment and commitment in the Amazon ecosystem. Together with the Amazon Appstore team, we were able to build the perfect story, not only for the start of LAOLA1.tv live streaming on set top boxes and ConnectedTV, but also for the growth of the Amazon Appstore and Fire TV in Germany and Austria" says Felix Blank of LAOLA1.tv.
Follow LAOLA1.tv’s example. Find out more about how to build your app for Fire TV and reach millions of customers in the living-room.
Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores just went live on Amazon as an Android exclusive. Dan Gray, Executive Producer of the game, reflects on his experience and offers helpful tips to developers.
Ustwo is a 120-head design studio based in Shoreditch, East London. Our main activities evolve around designing digital products like apps and services for clients. The game-side of the business, and with it Monument Valley, is actually really small – only 9 of us work on games. As such, Monument Valley was never part of the core business of ustwo. With all of us having a lot of freedom in what we wanted to create, our team were inspired to create the most beautiful product possible. Four months later, after vigorous prototyping sessions and lots of different concepts and mechanics, we came up with a visual basis that became Monument Valley in April 2014. Our emphasis was on quality, not quantity, and on engagement over distraction.
Based on our experience creating Monument Valley and Forgotten Shores, we’ve gained some interesting insights into building games.
Premium can still monetize even in a world when many games are moving toward freemium—Monument Valley broke even in only 7 days!
A year ago, most people in the industry believed that you were wasting your time creating a premium game and that nobody would pay for it but we thought that adding leaderboards, achievements and consumables would distract the users from the experience they were having. What that meant was that we had zero ways to make our development costs back without charging a fee for it. Consequently, at $3.99, the game has a price point that some may consider high.
We had no idea that the game would be as successful as it turned out to be, and in such a short time span. We expected to break even after 1 year, but instead we reached that milestone after only 7 days. In addition, it was very surprising that a high proportion of our Android downloads came from Amazon. In fact, 25-30% of our revenue on Android comes from the Amazon Appstore.
Games can target people who don’t see themselves as gamers through providing a great user experience
We have a very big emphasis on our social interaction with people since last year. Before we released Monument Valley we had 350 followers on Twitter. Now we have almost 40,000 followers, people who are really dedicated as well. If your customers feel they are part of the development process, it humanizes you as a developer and creates a much stronger bond between you and your customers.
What surprised us most was the breadth of users, ranging from 9 year-olds to grandparents. We thought we would have a broad range, but this completely blew us away.
Monument Valley takes Ida and her friend Totem through a mysterious world of geometric structures. The story ends after chapter 10, and we didn’t want to challenge the finality of this by bringing out a sequel. But we did have so many ideas for more mechanics that we wanted to explore. And customers were screaming for more content, asking us every single day: ‘When is the new Monument Valley out?’ That’s when we decided to create Forgotten Shores, the forgotten chapters you didn’t know existed. They are extra chapters that take place within the main story of Monument Valley, without conflicting with Ida’s journey and without disrupting the user’s experience.
Quality can still sell games—Ustwo has a team that is passionate about gaming and focused their efforts on a beautifully designed game
At the get go it is not about making money, but about making a great product with the hope that it would lead to success. It has been a long 7 months since we first launched Monument Valley. Our main learning from this experience is that there are genuinely many people out there that care about high quality products. We invested a lot personally in making this game and to know that our stake has been repaid by those players is a very good feeling.
Generally speaking, when you are coming up with a game concept, the most important factor is not the business side, your technology or your game engine. It is the passion in making that game that is more powerful than anything else. Make sure that every single person on the team cares about the game. Empower them and allow them to feel like it is theirs. Everyone on the team needs to be trusted with the creative directions so they are emotionally engaged with it.
After these exciting last months, we are going to take some time off from Monument Valley for a while. Until then, we hope you enjoy Forgotten Shores.
Meet Ida and Totem and explore Monument Valley’s Forgotten Shores by downloading the game on the Amazon Appstore (or download Amazon Appstore onto your Android device). Find more information about the Amazon Appstore Developer Program on the Developer Portal.
Dan Gray is an Executive Producer for Monument Valley & Land's End at ustwogames, ex Producer at Hello Games & Lionhead Studios. BAFTA Breakthrough Brit 2014.
ustwo is a global digital design studio with a 200-strong family of designers, developers and strategists based in New York / London / Malmö, Sweden. We create meaningful digital products and services that drive innovation for the world's leading brands, the next big things and our own product initiatives. Founded in 2004 by two friends, Mills and Sinx, as a 'studio of dreams' – a place where people come to do the best work of their lives. Our heritage and ambition remain to this day and has seen us grow from humble beginnings in London into a global family with a proven track record of delivery from concept to launch.
We consider user-centered design and integrated design & development the foundation to deliver standout user experiences. Our studios are self-sufficient homes to multi-discipline design and multi-platform development teams, all committed to agile process. Together, our designers and developers work and collaborate directly with our clients (we don't have 'account management' layers in the way). Driven by our focus on good process we are always open to new ways of doing what we do better.
We're a studio not an agency, so for us it’s about good design & development practices, iterative product design and products going live. We're independent, self-funded and on a mission to grow and establish a world leading studio with a work and revenue blend of client service, own product, joint venture and games.
On September 3rd, we announced the availability of Fire TV to customers in the UK and Germany, and this week we released Fire phone to customers in both countries. German developer HandyGames launched titles on both Fire phone and Fire TV when these devices were announced in the US and have leveraged the new technological features to create engaging user experiences.
Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Chris Kassulke, CEO and co-founder of HandyGames, and our interview was the perfect opportunity to learn insights and tips for new developers that want to explore opportunities on Amazon devices.
HandyGames is a developer and publisher of mobile games based in Giebelstadt, Germany. Founded in 2000, HandyGames has released more than 150 games on a multitude of mobile platforms, utilizing a wide range of technologies. With a strong focus on researching and developing new technologies as a way to be part of the next evolution in gaming, they develop games on Android, iOS, Windows Phone smartphones, Windows 8, OUYA, Tizen, wearables and tablet computers.
When Chris and his team got a first glimpse of Fire phone, they were wowed. Immediately, they started brainstorming for game ideas that use the new technologies to its fullest. Fascinated by the head-tracking feature, Dynamic Perspective, Chris and his team tested its effectiveness and started building a game around it that creates an optimized device experience to delight customers.
“The head-tracking feature was really unique and we wanted our game to provide some kind of unique gaming experience that you won’t get with any other phone out there.”
The result was Stage Dive Legends, a brand new game that launched as a 2-week exclusive Fire phone game before being released on Kindle Fire HDX devices or any other Android platforms.
“Stage Dive Legends is one of the first games that you can navigate completely without touching the phone itself. That’s so unique, it’s something completely unreal.”
For HandyGames, it is paramount to really explore new technology like Dynamic Perspective. According to Chris, it is up to the developers, not the distribution platforms, to advance and evolve the field of gaming. At the end of the day, if developers do not take advantage of the technology available to them, customers will not be able to experience it. Chris goes on to explain that it is HandyGames’ mission to explore the possibilities offered by distribution platforms and device manufacturers, and use it in a way that delights and surprised the end-user.
“You need to understand the platform. The users are expecting something new. They will be asking ‘Where’s the added value for me?’ And that’s what we do.”
With Dynamic Perspective, the user experience changes because people will not only be playing the game, they will be showing it to their friends. Due to the innovative technology, users will go back to a game to show off its capacities, where they would have otherwise moved on to a new game. Thus, novel technology can help sell the game through word-of-mouth marketing as well as keeping customers coming back to the game more often.
In addition to launching on Fire phone, HandyGames quickly jumped onboard to launch games on Fire TV with titles like Ninja Hero Cats, Farm Invasion USA and Save the Puppies.
Constantly seeking innovative ways to reach customers in the most effective way, HandyGames are moving away from a tablet/smartphone-only strategy, and seek to take advantage of the big screen experience.
“For us it was really important to be on Fire TV, because of our beyond-mobile strategy”.
As Chris explained, this strategy entails that the end-consumer should have access to their games, whether they are on the go or at home in the living room, and is the reason why HandyGames optimized all of their games for Fire TV. Chris adds that this makes a lot of sense for HandyGames, since their games are perfectly designed for the big screen with large graphics, and because they are easy to play with the game controller.
“As a next step, we will be optimizing all our future games for Fire TV, so the end-consumer can look forward to lots of exciting new content from us.”
It’s free to register for an Amazon Appstore developer account and to download and use the SDKs for Fire TV and Fire phone. Fire TV has the power to make your Android games shine on the big (home) screen; take advantage of the opportunity to publish them directly to the living room. Check out our online documentation and blog posts about developing for Fire TV. Fire phone allows you to extend your Android app beyond today’s flat user interfaces. Fire apps can take advantage of the new Dynamic Perspective and Firefly SDKs - two new breakthrough technologies that allow customers to see and interact with the world through a whole new lens. If you have existing Android or HTML5 apps, you can easily and quickly get your app up on Fire phone. Most Android phone apps will already work on Fire. To determine your app’s compatibility, simply submit your app using our updated testing service and get compatibility test results within 90 seconds.
We frequently hear from developers that allocating resources and prioritizing investments can be a tough decision.
Tivola, a kids and family games publisher based in Hamburg, Germany, was not sure if they should build an Android version of their apps until they heard that apps were monetizing well on Amazon – sometimes even better than on other Android platforms. The return on investment that Amazon could potentially deliver inspired them to take the plunge, with Amazon as their Android partner. Their apps were live when Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV launched in the US, and today they see Amazon as a core part of their strategy.
Recently we had the chance to meet in person with Hendrik Peeters, COO of Tivola, and he shed some light on Tivola’s experience with Amazon.
The developers at Tivola are the creative brains behind 50 apps, including PetWorld 3D and the popular Fire TV game Grandpa and the Zombies. Founded in 1995, Tivola has nearly 20 years of experience building innovative and entertaining apps and games for kids and families.
Tivola is quick to respond to the constantly evolving business environment. They have pivoted their strategy and moved from selling games on PC CD-ROM, to games consoles, and now to apps and games on mobile devices. Tivola published their first iOS app in 2011 and chose Amazon as the first platform on which to publish their Android apps in 2012.
Reflecting on why they built Android apps for Amazon first, Hendrik says that what ultimately affected the decision was the personal support they knew they would get with Amazon. Hendrik states that monetization on Amazon is stronger than expected, with ARPU being 33% higher than on alternative Android platforms. In the US specifically, ARPU for free titles is up to 4 times more than on Google Play. Hendrik ties the high monetization they’ve seen to Amazon’s customer base:
“Amazon provided a unique platform where we can distribute apps to an audience of invested parents who are interested in high quality content and are happy to pay money for it.”
As a kids and family games publisher, Tivola acts very carefully when offering in-app purchasing, so a customer base who is willing to pay for an app upfront plays a crucial role in Tivola’s success. Indeed, Tivola’s preschool-level games perform very well on Amazon, achieving ratings of 4.7 stars on Amazon.de.
Having understood early on that they have to distribute their apps globally, Tivola have emphasised localisation to expand abroad successfully. For example, Tivola worked very hard to publish Grandpa and the Zombies in 9 different languages, which, according to Hendrik, was a crucial customization to reach customers outside Germany. Indeed, localisation has enabled that 70% of revenue from their kids games and casual games now comes from outside Germany. The Free App of the Day promotion of Grandpa and the Zombies exemplifies this success, with 2/3 of downloads coming from the United States.
Confident in their success on Amazon’s tablet devices in the US, Tivola decided to have their apps live on Fire TV for when it launched in the US in April 2014. Indeed, their game Grandpa and the Zombies was one of the first apps on Fire TV. As Hendrik explains:
“We were excited to be part of something big. We saw it as investing in the future and we wanted to be there from the beginning.”
He strongly encourages developers to be present on a platform from the very beginning. As Tivola discovered first-hand with Fire TV, the high discoverability they got from a brand new platform is a clear advantage and incentive to invest in it.