The growth of social networking has led not only to increased communication and information dissemination, but also to a subsequent rise in the occurrence of social games and gaming platforms allowing for online interactions between multiple players. While MMOs have been around for quite a while, only in recent years have games made the transition to mobile devices, letting anyone play anywhere at any time thanks to constant improvements to smartphones and tablets. And while Apple users have enjoyed the benefits offered by Game Center, with the ability to invite friends to play, earn achievements, and track scores on the leaderboard, users on some other networks have been missing out. But Amazon is looking to even the score, so to speak, by creating their own version of the online gaming consortium.
GameCircle, unveiled just a couple of days ago, is Amazon’s bid to take a bigger bite of the online gaming pie. With the release of the Kindle Fire, a tablet that could not only of providing the e-book capabilities of its predecessor, but also deliver video media capabilities, the company set itself up to pull some market share from the iPad (the price point certainly didn’t hurt). And the recent injunction against Samsung (banning the sale of Galaxy Tablet 10.1 and the Galaxy Nexus in the US) leaves an opening for a new gaming device to slip in. But the truth is that there aren’t many developers making games for the Kindle, at least not yet. It seems that the online retailer is hoping the development of a social marketplace for gaming will help to jumpstart a gaming revolution for their tablet.
Many of the features are similar to those provided by Apple’s Game Center, including a variety of achievements (trophies, badges, awards, etc.), online leaderboards, in-game messaging, and so on. But Amazon’s cloud network capabilities could provide extra incentives to check out their service. For example, information can be saved to the cloud, meaning that players can avoid the mega downloads that often come with graphics-heavy offerings. In addition, cloud computing allows for syncing between devices, so that a user playing a game on one device can save and then seamlessly pick up on another device on the fly. For example, you could start a game on your computer, leave the house, and continue playing in another location on your phone or tablet. This, of course, has fueled speculation about a branded Amazon phone, and while it’s little more than grist for the rumor mill at this point, the company is certainly setting themselves up for future cross-device usage.
The only real problem here is that online gaming platforms like GameCircle must still rely heavily on game developers for content. Apple has addressed this issue in a number of ways. First, they are the top seller of high-end mobile gaming devices (iPhone and iPad), which gives game developers good incentive to work with them. They also provide inexpensive licenses to independent developers to create apps for iTunes. However, Amazon so far does not meet these criteria, and they don’t have the many devices that would make their cloud syncing capabilities worthwhile. So if they want to gain the financial benefits of gamers buying FPS, MMO, and Zombie Games 365 days a year, they’re going to have to continue to build their gaming network. But GameCircle is a step in the right direction, and probably an indication of things to come.