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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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December 2014
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Amazon Offers Unity Plugins to Kindle Fire Developers

Amazon has been making an effort to interest app developers, especially game developers, in their distribution platform lately.  As has been mentioned here in the past, their GameCircle will allow for all sorts of social features to be integrated into just about any game without much trouble.  Before this, many of the more popular Android games were unable to make use of their full feature set because of the Kindle Fire’s disconnection from Google services.

Moving forward along the same lines, Amazon has released plugins for the popular Unity game engine that should make it easier than ever for developers to add some in-app purchasing to their productions and build GameCircle into their games.

There are a number of reasons that this will be attractive.  According to the press release regarding these plugins, in-app purchasing averages more than twice the revenue generation of paid app sales per transaction.  Developers who can interest their users enough to encourage the occasional purchase will benefit from ongoing sales and therefore enjoy a fairly nice stream of income.

The GameCircle features help with this.  GameCircle’s main attractions are Leaderboards, Achievements, and Whispersync for Games.  The first two are easy ways to nudge players into spending more time immersed in the app.  More exposure and more personal time investment means more likelihood of making a casual purchase.  The latter feature, Whispersync for Games, encourages use of multiple devices and allows players to pick up where they left off even if they delete local data.  That means that there is a far lower bar to replay should somebody be interested in running through their favorites a second time.

This will be both good and bad for the players, but mostly good.

By bringing these features to the Kindle Fire, Amazon has finally provided all the tools that developers will need to properly prepare their apps for distribution via the Amazon Appstore for Android.  This will lead to more games, and apps in general, being made available for the Kindle Fire.

Whispersync for Games should go a long way to encourage quality game design as well.  Since there is reason to hope that users will keep coming back now that their progress and achievements can be saved even after deleting an app temporarily, there is more reason to provide ongoing support and updates.

Of course the ease with which in-app purchases can be offered also means a slew of new apps meant to do nothing more than milk microtransactions out of every user.  These types of lazy designs are a big presence on Google Play, but there’s been nothing keeping them away from Amazon aside from the extra effort it would take.  I’m not referring to the genuinely malicious software, of course, but even the merely bad can be obnoxious to watch out for.

Expect to see more games with more features springing up in the months to come thanks to these plugins.

Say Goodbye to OpenFeint, Amazon Introduces GameCircle for Kindle Fire

One of the biggest problems with making games for Android devices like the Kindle Fire is that it can be very difficult to create a framework around them.  Yes, there are plenty of stand-alone titles to choose from, but if you’re talking about anything competitive or social then that means potentially huge investments in technology beyond the app itself.

Many app developers have found shortcuts around this problem.  Among the more popular is a service called OpenFeint.  The service provides a relatively easily integrated social gaming platform with a fairly large established user base ready to draw on, but it also runs into issues.  The company running the service has been accused of privacy violations, sharing user personal information with advertisers, and monitoring user activity outside of games.

The lawsuits regarding those complaints and more are still pending.  Whether you believe that the company is a problem or not, though, clearly the adoption of the platform can cause problems for a developer.  You need only look at some of Amazon’s previous “Free App of the Day” selections to see how it affects reviews, especially among Kindle Fire users.

Many have felt the need to incorporate that platform, or something similar to it, in order to provide features like competitive scoreboards and other social features without the need to create an independent support structure for them.  Amazon, fortunately, has provided a better option.

On July 11th, they announced the new GameCircle service.  A series of APIs are now available to developers that allow them to build in achievements, leaderboards, and cloud saving.  It has already been included in a number of popular games, including Temple Run and Triple Town, thanks to a successful beta run involving those developers.

Achievements are a natural way to increase time spent in a given game.  They have become common enough that just about any user will recognize them and they provide arbitrary goals within games that can both guide and reward players in a variety of situations.  The potential for increased engagement that they provide is well known and far more effective when made into a socially shared experience rather than an in-game checklist.

Leaderboards are excellent for any potentially competitive title.  Timed games, anything point-based, and progress competition are all possible.  The implications are obvious.

The most important part of this update, however, is the sync feature.  By allowing a user to sync their progress in a given game without requiring that files be left behind even after the deletion of a title from the device, GameCircle extends the lifespan of games.  Even if you don’t finish a given selection on your phone tonight, you can always pull it up on your Kindle Fire tomorrow and pick up where you left off.  You can even forget about a game and not have to start unlocking levels again from the beginning when you think about it a year down the line.  It’s highly appealing.

Overall, GameCircle meets a need.  It eliminates the need for potentially shady alternatives and further incentivizes development specifically for Amazon’s Appstore.  That will be essential for the continued popularity of the Kindle Fire, but anybody with an Android device stands to benefit.