BARCELONA, Spain — Amazon’s Fire Phone may have failed to catch, well, you know. But that hasn’t dimmed the e-commerce giant’s mobile ambitions, particularly when it comes to gaming.
Just how dramatically Amazon’s interest in gaming has grown over the past year has been on display this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the company has substantially increased its presence from the show in 2014. The timing seems good, considering MWC itself decided to make gaming a bigger focus this year, probably a wise — if somewhat strangely belated — recognition of the importance of mobile games in the apps market.
Indeed, according to statistics released at the conference by App Annie, games drive almost 75 percent of the income on Apple’s App Store and 90 percent on Google Play.
So, for the first time, MWC has created within the broader conference a Gamelab Mobile event that happens all day tomorrow. Amazon is a co-sponsor, along with Rovio and Samsung. Paul Cutsinger, chief of developer experience for the Amazon Appstore, will be delivering a keynote called “Evolving Players Into Fans.”
That talk is sandwiched between coffee breaks sponsored by Amazon Web Services. In addition, the company will have a “Meet the Experts” table where, the company says, “Amazon representatives and guest speakers can provide feedback on your mobile and gaming projects.”
Earlier this week, Amazon also co-sponsored one of MWC’s signature parties, the Application Developers Alliance Mobile Apps Party at the swanky W Hotel. In addition to having on hand all of Amazon’s hardware for developers to try, the company had plenty of employees there to answer developers’ questions and educate them about the Amazon Appstore.
We got just a bit more insight into the Appstore today when Aaron Rubenson, director of product management for the Amazon Appstore spoke on a panel about mobile gaming as part of the main MWC event.
Rubenson said that like many others in the gaming world, Amazon has found that only a small percentage of players are willing to spend money. But he said the group that does pay tends to spend a lot more on Amazon games. On average, Rubenson said the so-called “power players” spend $50 per month on games at Amazon’s Appstore, compared to an industry average of $4 to $5 per month.
The reason, he believes, is because Amazon has a long e-commerce relationship with players who have handed over their credit card number and are used to making large purchases at Amazon.com. As a result, Rubenson said these players are more likely to feel like paying $2 or $5 for a mobile game is a minor purchase.
Indeed, Rubenson said the company has been successful convincing people to spend $6.99 to download “Tales from Deep Space,” a gaming app released late last year by its Amazon Game Studios for Kindle Fire tablets. And he believes Amazon can continue to push customers in the direction of paying for games and away from the freemium model that currently dominates.
This push to attract mobile game developers this week caps a dramatic year for Amazon and gaming. You can read a great overview of those developments in this story by VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb. But in a nutshell: Amazon sees games as an important source of content to attract people to its tablets, phone, and TV streaming stick. Besides continuing to expand iAmazon Game Studios, it also paid $970 million to acquire Twitch, the service that lets you livestream your gameplay.
Of course, Amazon is also at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this week. With the company pouring resources into this area, the question now is whether developers will follow. And whether any of this will drive bigger sales of Amazon’s hardware in the coming year.