August 26, 2015 Last Updated 12:11 pm

Amazon Underground app released, with alternative pay model for game developers

Amazon will pay developers for the amount of time their game app gets played in the new Android app, once again looking to create a new pay model

There is no question that Amazon likes to disrupt markets by changing the way people get paid. For instance, paying authors for the number of pages a book is read rather than a set fee.

underground-letterThis is the model to be employed in Amazon Underground, the company’s new app scheme. The Android phone app is essentially a new app store, contained inside a free app, and with only free games, in-app items and includes Amazon’s shopping app (of course).

The app, although for Android, will not be available through the Google Play store as Google does not allow competing app stores inside its ecosystem. But one can imagine that the Amazon Underground app is, in effect, a way of competing against both Google and Apple app stores. But, keep in mind, Apple’s total revenue is barely effected by App Store sales, and the only way to get inside the iOS ecosystem is through Apple.

The installation mechanism is a bit clunky: you have to head over to the Amazon Underground web page, enter your email address or mobile phone number, and then receive a link to download the app. Maybe they think app discoverability is so bad that they want to avoid even their own app store.

But it is the developer model that is of interest:

Amazon Underground includes a new monetization model where Amazon pays developers based on the amount of time your app is used. With Amazon Underground, you can turn 100% of your Android users into revenue generating customers. You get paid starting from the very first minute your Amazon Underground app is used, and you will continue to be paid for every minute of use by every customer. With Amazon Underground, you can focus less on monetizing and more on creating great user experiences. Most Android apps are eligible for Amazon Underground. Getting started is easy. Just create a developer account and submit your app today.

For small time developers it will be tempting to use the platform as app discovery is so difficult these days. But like Amazon’s author systems, they may find that they are earning pennies, not dollars. After all, users of the app still need to find the game, and use it. If not, there is not much to gain.

Amazon is promoting four advantages to Amazon Underground:

  • Generate Revenue from Every Customer
    With Amazon Underground, you will make money from 100% of your users. Amazon will pay you for every minute spent in your Amazon Underground app by every user.
  • Increase Your User Base
    Amazon Underground will help attract more users to your app with Actually Free content.
  • Focus on Building Great User Experiences
    Amazon Underground lets you focus less on monetizing and more on creating great user experiences.
  • Start Earning Right Away
    Most paid or IAP Android apps will work with Amazon Underground. From within the developer portal, you will need only to check a box to enable Amazon Underground.

Gimmick? Good model? You be the judge. But one thing I know is that anytime someone introduces a new pay scheme it inevitably works its way into the publishing field, and I know what many publishers and writers would say: sounds like working for free.

Here is Amazon’s promotional video:

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