Noodlecake on Amazon Underground: "Fronting the bill just isn't sustainable in the long run" [Update]

At some point Amazon is going to have to collect money

Noodlecake on Amazon Underground: "Fronting the bill just isn't sustainable in the long run" [Update]
| Amazon Appstore
Updated on 2nd September, 2015 at 12:59PM: The headline for this story was edited on 2nd September, 2015 to better reflect the nuance of Ryan's comments.

Updated on 28th August, 2015 at 12:11PM: We reached out to Noodlecake Studios, a developer and publisher who has backed Amazon Underground with a few of its own titles, for comment and its thoughts and concerns were remarkably similar to our own.

Ryan Holowaty, COO at Noodlecake Studio, also expressed doubt at the sustainability of the model and whether or not it's a reliable source of income for mobile developers - particularly those "quick fix games".

Holowaty: "I think at this point developers and marketplaces are doing what they can to stand out. The dominance of f2p in the market really makes it hard for developers who are trying to create a one off premium experience to be profitable, so I applaud Amazon for at least trying something different.

"The reality is though that this is a pure market share grab for Amazon as a model like this where Amazon is fronting the bill just isn't sustainable in the long run.

"If it is super successful, at some point Amazon is going to have to collect money from their users or else they will just be funnelling money out the door.

"Clearly right now they benefit from just acquiring more users in their marketplace. How they then monetize them, by either converting them to the other paid apps or not is still yet to be seen."

A reliable source of income for developers?

"In terms of it being a reliable source of income, that is hard to say. I would say the micro nature of mobile games makes it seem like not a whole lot of money. But we also have games where players have put in 100+ hours which translates to over $12 a player.

"In those instances, we actually would collect more than the asking price. But small quick fix games might suffer. It really depends title to title but there is definitely more emphasis on longer more engaging experiences with this model."

Amazon Underground is a brand new app store that offers $10,000 worth of completely free games, apps, and IAPs to all Android users.

There's absolutely no catch either - well, not to us anyway - all you have to do is download the new app, pick a game and get playing.

All IAPs that previously came with a cost will be free as well and there's no limit to the amount you can use them. You'll also be pleased to read that the apps appear to be ad-free.

Before you start worrying about developers going completely unpaid for their hard work, Amazon has assured us that the corporation itself is floating the bill instead.

Rather than pay how much we would have paid for the app, game, or IAP, Amazon is paying a developer a certain amount per minute of the app being used. It's a practice similar to that used by Spotify or Netflix.

Good for developers?

The whole idea is excellent in theory but is it sustainable? We reached out to developer and publisher Crescent Moon Games, who's backed Underground with a few of its own apps and games, to hear its thoughts on the matter.

They weren't quite as positive as we expected, which is understandable when you learn that the developers are, in fact, only earning $0.002 per minute of each individual person playing.

As it's relatively early days, it's difficult to get a good idea of exactly how much extra income this is going to bring in but the concerns are understandable.

Josh Presseisen, Founder at Crescent Moon Games said: "If this gets a lot of downloads it should be pretty good for developers - but that will really depend on the amount of coverage that Amazon can pull in for the service.

"I can't really comment yet until I see the numbers. Its $.002/min not 2 cents per minute - so its probably going to be horrible."

If Amazon Underground doesn't result in decent returns for developers, we could see future apps avoiding the service or current ones being pulled in favour of their paid equivalents.

That's not the only potential problem here.

What does Amazon get out of this?

There's a lot of uncertainty around this and, at this present moment in time, it's unclear exactly how this benefits Amazon.

It's certainly not a monetary benefit as Amazon isn't even placing its own advertising into the apps.

The only reasonable assumption is that Amazon is trying to get all Android owners to use Underground rather than Google Play or any equivalent app store.

Adding fuel to this claim is the fact that the Underground app store doesn't only include free apps. Apps are separated into 'Actually free' (Amazon Underground apps), free (apps with IAPs costing actual money), and premium (an app with an upfront cost).

If we got in the habit of using Amazon Underground over Google Play, it's likely that we'd be more inclined to make purchases from Amazon's app store over Google Play.

Right now this is just speculation. We've reached out for other developer's thoughts and will keep you posted on what we learn.

Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, lively Chris is up for anything - including running Steel Media! (Madman!)