Welcome to the final part of this five part series on making games for the Amazon Appstore. Part one, two, three and four helped you build the foundation for your game’s design and in this final post we will talk about how to actually market your game.
So you have finally finished your game and are ready to release it to the world. While there is a lot you can do after you have completed your game to help make it a success, you should always be thinking about marketing your game from the very beginning. The following section will help you with everything from naming your game to how to help it stick out in an overcrowded mobile store. While marketing a game is not an exact science, and its success has a lot to do with the quality of your game and pure luck, you can still take the necessary steps to ensure it gets the most attention possible out of the gate.
The name of your game is going to be the single most important decision you make. Companies spend huge amounts of money doing market research to come up with product names, and what you come up with for your game has lasting effects. The most basic thing you can do to help your game be more successful is to simply give it a descriptive name. Look at other games and how they came up with their names:
Naming a game isn’t always an easy task, but make sure your game’s name is clear, descriptive, and easy to remember. Also, make sure your game’s name makes sense for sequels and continuations if you find yourself with a hit on your hands.
This topic really goes back to the beginning section on what platform to build your game in. The key to success is really getting your game in the hands of as many players as possible. To do that, you will need to pick a platform with the most reach possible. While HTML5 has the incredible advantage of being published to the Web, you will find that it is more difficult to publish to a native store. Frameworks like GameMaker and Unity will allow you to publish to multiple platforms, but they charge extra for that service. Some features are free, and while GameMaker allows you to export an HTML5 version for the Web and Unity has a Web Player for its game, you really need to do your research and pick the right tool from the beginning.
The ideal scenario is that you are able to release your game on all of the major platforms: Web, iOS, Android, FireOS and desktop. From there, you have some granular options to decide on, like what devices to support on each mobile platform, and even what version of the OS you can support. Don’t forget Web stores, such as Chrome Market and Firefox’s new Web-based Phone OS. Also, there are online game portals that do revenue sharing based on ads around your game. While mobile is all the rage, don’t forget how many people still use Web browsers, and every modern mobile device also supports playing Web games, so you get even more bang for your buck. I am now working on having all of my games as Web-playable demos pointing to the app store versions to help broaden my audience, since being found on the Web is much easier than in an app store.
If the Web isn’t your thing, also keep in mind cross-platform desktop publishing. A lot of indies have had success with Steam Greenlight, as well as bundle deals like Humble Bundle. Both of these distribution solutions leverage desktop compiling and usually want games that support Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you intend to ever get your game on Steam, make sure you are able to offer a desktop installer.
With all of this talk about distribution, you are probably thinking through all of your monetization options. Let’s take a look at the three most common options out there now:
The reality is that, if this is your first game, chances are high that you will not make a lot of money off of it. Having a successful game is kind of like winning the lottery. I am not telling you this to discourage you; I want first-time game developers to have a clear idea of what they are in for. Even seasoned game developers have a difficult time monetizing their games without help from marketing firms. Even getting good reviews on game sites, which is hard to do, doesn’t always translate into lots of sales. The best thing you can do is get featured on the app store itself, but once that promotion is over, unless you have a real hit on your hands, you will see a natural drop off in your game’s sales or downloads.
The last thing I want to talk about, which leads into our next topic, is that making games is a learning experience. The more games you make the better you become as a game developer and grow your chances of making a hit game. While it’s very frustrating for first-time game developers to work hard on something and not see people download it or buy it, you shouldn’t give up. One of the best things your game can be is a promotional tool for you and even your next game. Always be sure to have links to your other games inside of your game to help promote everything you are doing. You may be surprised to realize that, over time, you actually end up building up a following of people more willing to pay for your next game if they continue to play and like the ones you are releasing now.
I talk to a lot of game developers each day, and they all have the same story: the more games they have in the store the better their sales are. This happens for two reasons. The first is that, when you make more than one game, they are all featured on your game’s download page under a section that highlights other games made by the same author. That means that each additional game you make basically gives you free advertising for your other games. The second thing that happens is that, when a person likes your game, they naturally want to play more games you have made. This means they will look at anything else you have created, which is the basis for building your own fan base. So each successive game you release will naturally help drive downloads and sales of your past games as well. This is another reason why you should not give up if your first game isn’t an instant success and just keep making as many games as you can!
The good news is that publishing to the Amazon Appstore is free and easy, especially if you are already building Android games. Simply sign up for a developer account at the developer portal to get started today. Here are some additional links to help you gets started:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
We’ve come a long way from the custom 3D renderers and affine transformation tricks that used to be the stock and trade of every game programmer pushing the graphics envelope. Modern GPUs and frameworks let us concentrate (mostly) on the game we want to make, instead of the low-level drawing.
That doesn’t mean we are completely off the hook, though. We still have to (get to?) make choices about how the game looks and performs. We control the rendering technology—even if we don’t have to write it—and it’s up to us to tweak and optimize its behavior to suit our needs.
Texture maps are a great example. Applied almost like decals to the polygons of 3D objects, these images are essential assets that add depth, beauty, and realism. The price for this visual interest is a little extra configuration and resource management. Here are three simple ways you can improve your game’s appearance and performance when texture mapping on Fire tablets.
The latest generation of Fire tablets support OpenGL ES 3.0 and below, while older Kindle Fires support OpenGL ES 2.0. OpenGL ES makes working with textures easy, even if you are targeting multiple devices with varying capabilities. You can query the device at runtime to learn what is supported and adjust accordingly to optimize performance.
Maximum texture size, for example, describes the largest width or height possible for image data used as a texture. In the past, manufacturers tended to support only small sizes (e.g. 1K, 2K, or 4K on a side), and it was common to allocate video memory for textures based on the maximum size available—simple, if not especially efficient. With newer hardware supporting textures 8K or 16K across, though, this shortcut can rapidly exhaust all video memory.
Fire tablets support much larger texture sizes than other devices on the market, so allocating memory based on that limit by default is a bad idea. Instead, the best practice is to allocate memory based on your actual size requirements.
If you don’t plan on manipulating texture data at runtime, you can improve memory efficiency and performance by compressing your textures in advance. Compressed textures allow OpenGL ES to optimize video memory usage, making more of it available to your game and sometimes making what you have perform better. How you compress your data depends on your requirements and the device(s) where your game will run.
ETC1, a limited compression format supported by Android and Fire OS as a standard feature, is available on all Fire tablets. It does not support an alpha channel, though, which means textures compressed with ETC1 cannot have transparency. The ETC2/EAC format remedies this, supporting transparency as well as higher compression and better visual quality. It is a standard feature of OpenGL ES 3.0 and available on the latest Fire tablets, though not earlier models supporting only OpenGL ES 2.0.
Fire tablets also support GPU-specific texture compression formats. ATC compression works on devices with Qualcomm Adreno graphics processors, while those using PowerVR chips support the PVRTC format.
Qualcomm Adreno 420
Fire HDX 8.9 (4th Gen)
Qualcomm Adreno 330
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” (3rd Gen)
Kindle Fire HDX 7” (3rd Gen)
Fire HD 7 (4th Gen)
Fire HD 6 (4th Gen)
PowerVR SGX 544
Kindle Fire HD 7” (3rd Gen)
Kindle Fire HD 8.9” (2nd Gen)
PowerVR SGX 540
Kindle Fire HD 7” (3rd Gen)
Kindle Fire HD 8.9” (2nd Gen)
Kindle Fire (1st Gen)
It is possible to combine multiple texture compression formats in a single APK. You can even include ATC and PVRTC textures together if you don’t want to release separate versions of your game based on GPU. In that case, you would determine at runtime which compression format was supported and load the appropriate set of textures.
Generically, a bitmap is a collection of picture elements related by proximity, palette, or some other characteristic. Similarly, a mipmap is a collection of related graphical objects, only these represent different levels of detail (LOD) for images. (The Latin multum in parvo, “much in little,” is where we get “mip.”) You can dramatically improve the appearance—and sometimes the performance—of your 3D game by pre-scaling certain images, especially those used as textures. The idea is to create high-quality “down-samples” that OpenGL ES will choose between, based on distance from the camera or 2D render size.
OpenGL ES can even interpolate between adjacent mipmap images (called trilinear filtering) to smooth the transition as objects move closer to or farther from the camera viewpoint. Because fewer texture pixels must be processed to render the down-samples (compared to simply scaling the full-sized image), they are drawn faster. Since they are anti-aliased as part of the pre-scaling step, the load on the GPU also decreases.
Using mipmaps in your game is straightforward, because OpenGL ES includes a function to generate them for you. It also allows you to specify the smoothing strategies it will apply when reducing and enlarging the images.
Even though much of the low-level drudgery of rendering has been pushed to frameworks and graphics processors, we are still in the driver's seat and ultimately control how our games look and how well they perform. These simple tips will help you fine tune the way OpenGL ES works with textures on Fire tablets, keeping your games running fast and looking great.
Once you have your game up and running, and you begin to approach being able to release it, you are going to want to go over all the details and make sure it’s polished. Sure, you can put a game out there just to see how it does, but in today’s saturated market of mobile games, you need to make sure you put your best foot forward when releasing your game. Here are a few things you should do in your own game before you release it.
One of the most important things you should do in your game is make sure your art style is consistent throughout the game. Your in-game graphics and your UI, and even the splash screen, should all look and feel like they belong together. The best example I have of this is Mega Man 2.
As you can see the box art for “Mega Man 2”, on the left, is completely different than what the actual game looked like, on the right. While there is a time and place for being creative with your game’s art style, just make sure you don’t set the wrong expectations for your perspective players. This is especially important when it comes to creating screen shots to entice people to pay for or download your game. In the end, keeping everything consistent will help make the overall game feel more polished.
How to support multiple resolutions is probably one of the most common questions I get asked at all of my game design talks. Outside of supporting mobile resolutions, which are all over the place, desktop monitors have been driving game developers crazy for years. When it comes to designing for multiple resolutions, you just need to understand how aspect ratio works and decide whether your game will attempt to maintain it. To help myself out, I always start with a comp of the three main resolutions I want to support.
Here you can see that the native resolution of my game is 800 X 480. This is a 5:3 aspect ratio. From there, I can easily scale my game to 1024 X 768, which is a similar aspect ratio of 4:3. My game will also support 1366 X 768, which is a 16:9 aspect ratio. The key to this system is that my game camera simply shows more of the game screen as I change aspect ratios, and the UI moves based on the resolution as well. Here is an example of the game at two different resolutions.
Here is the game at 800 X 480. As you can see, the camera shows less of the action, but I make sure the UI scales down nicely to support the lower resolution without any overlapping.
And here is the game at 1366 X 768. As you can see, both versions of the game are fully playable, but you end up with a little extra screen real estate at the higher aspect ratio.
The last thing I want to talk about when polishing your game is perceived performance. A lot of the time, developers spend days upon days trying to optimize their code when they end up forgetting that a few minor tweaks to the way their game runs will help give the impression of better performance to players. Sure, optimizing artwork is a key part of any performance optimization, but why not make your loading screen look more interesting while people wait, or work on making the transitions from screen to screen more seamless. Even tricks like lowering the FPS could actually help out if your game is struggling to maintain 60 FPS. Most games can easily get away with 30 FPS. Also, having more animation transitions and frames can help remove the feeling of slowness or unresponsiveness in gameplay.
The hardest thing to really understand is how to support multiple resolutions. Once you understand that you will be on your way to being able to make games across multiple platforms and screen sizes. To help get you started here are some resources to help you better understand our Fire Phone, Fire Tablet and Fire TV resolutions and tips for optimizing:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
As we continue our game design series we’ll focus on one of the most important aspects for any game, adding artwork and sounds. Don’t forget to check out part one for picking a game framework and part two for game design 101.
If you don’t come from an art or music background, you might find this part of the game creation process the most stressful. Building a game for the first time will stretch all of your skills, like programming, creativity, design, and more. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and forget the most valuable part of making a game, which is building something fun to play. In this section, I will talk about some approaches to adding artwork and sounds into your game.
The first thing I tell people just starting out is to use placeholder art and sound while building a game. It may be hard to believe, but you can always get artwork later, and sound is just as easy to find online or get help making. To be honest, if you build a compelling enough game, you may even be able to convince an artist or musician to work for you and share the profit from the game. But none of that will happen if you don’t have a fun game to begin with. It also helps to take a look at other games that use minimalistic or dynamically generated art as inspiration as well. The following are a few very successful indie games that do that.
“Thomas Was Alone”
While “Thomas Was Alone” looks deceptively simple from the screen shots, there are a lot of subtle visual effects that add depth to the art style. But, at the end of the day, the game is really about a set of primitive shapes and basic geometric levels.
“Super Hexagon” was a hit as soon as it was released. It revolves around the simple concept of not touching the walls that rotate and move to the music. As you can see, the levels appear to be dynamically generated, and while its creator uses a really great soundtrack to move the levels along, all of the visuals can be sorted out once you have the basic gameplay mechanics down.
Let’s talk about how to make art and some ways to package it up into your game.
I love pixel art. It’s super easy to make, and most of the games I build are based on old Nintendo games I used to play as a kid. While pixel art isn’t for everyone, here is a list of some design tools to get you started:
I could probably write an entire book on tools for making artwork for games, but you should take a look at other online tools I may have missed or that you might already own. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the best you can when it comes to making artwork, and if your game is good enough, you will eventually find someone to help clean it all up. I actually outsource all of my artwork even though I have a background in art because I want to focus on the game and let someone else carry the burden of making good game art. You can find my own collection of open source art work at http://jessefreeman.com/category/game-artwork/
Just like artwork, creating sound effects can be a daunting process. I suck at sound design, and it’s another thing I try to outsource as much as possible. I do have a secret weapon, though, called Bfxr, which you can use online or install on your computer as an AIR app from http://www.bfxr.net/.
This app is perfect for generating simple 8-bit sound effects for your game. It may look intimidating at first, but as you can see on the left-hand side, there are a bunch of pre-defined sound templates, such as pickup, laser, explosion, and jump sounds. But the most important button is Randomize. I use this all the time to come up with new sound effects, and you can use the Synth option in the middle to modify it. I use these as placeholder sound effects in most of my games, and over time, I have built up a nice little collection of sound effects I can use from game to game to help speed up my development. You can download my collection at http://bit.ly/gamesfx.
Once you have some sound effects, you are going to need a way to convert them. Bfxr likes to generate .wav files, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a game frameworks that still use that file format. That is why I use a program called Audacity, which you can get at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/.
For example, when it comes to HTML5 games, you are going to need to output .mp3 and .ogg files, since each browser supports a different file format.
While this is just a small part of what you will need to produce artwork and sound effects, I have a few links below to open-source artwork and additional resources to help you get started:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
As we continue this multi-part series on how to make your first game for the Amazon Appstore we’ll dig into the fundamentals of game design. If you are just finding this post, make sure you check out part one which covers picking a game framework that supports exporting to the Amazon Appstore.
For most people, it usually starts the same exact way. You have a game idea and just want to start building. Making a game is more than just having a good idea and the skill to code it; you have to think through the gameplay, the target audience, and map out what it is you are going to build. I love this tweet by Sean James McKenzie of @baconandgames about your first game idea:
To help you simplify your idea to something manageable you should start by getting it down on paper. No one builds a house without a blueprint, and you shouldn’t make a game without a solid plan either. This could be something as simple as a task list with everything you need to do or something more specific, such as a document outlining all the details. Either way, your game design process is going to start with a blank page. Let’s talk about how to fill it in.
In traditional game development, you are encouraged to make a game design document. This is usually a large document outlining every aspect of a game. It’s the blueprint that the rest of the team must follow when building out the game. If you are a single developer, this is overkill. You can easily boil down a GDD into a single list of tasks with a few introduction paragraphs and any collateral or references, such as screen shots and links to other games or game mechanics you like.
It’s up to you to find the best way to document your idea, but the more you work through the details the better the project will end up. It’s very “cheap” to work out your ideas on paper or in your head before you start coding. Once you begin the coding process and need to go back, you amass what we call technical debt that can make your code unmanageable or, even worse, kill your productivity altogether by forcing you to constantly hack together new solutions or refactor code you’ve already written.
The most important part of this documentation process is sharing your idea with others and getting their feedback. I know you want to protect your idea with your life, but the reality is that most people starting out making games need feedback from others. We all start out with the lofty goal of “making a game I want to play,” but the reality is that you are just one person and, in order to be successful, you need to appeal to larger markets. I’m not saying you should post your game ideas online for all to see, but find a select group of trusted friends and run it by them. You’ll find that some feedback is hard to take, but being able to filter out what will actually make your game better is a valuable skill to have.
Perhaps the most important thing outside of documenting your own ideas is to start playing games … a lot of games. As a game maker, your hobby should be playing games, taking them apart, and figuring out what makes them tick. You should keep a notebook of all the games that you play, and even the ones you don’t play but see online. Use something like OneNote, or any note-taking app. The idea is to write down what you like about the game, what you don’t like, and some of your big takeaways from playing it. There should be screen shots if you like the art style and links to any collateral information on the game that will help you with your own ideas later. Since you never know how a game will inspire you, it’s important to be as detailed as you can. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s honestly the most valuable tool you will ever have when it comes to finding inspiration and avoiding common pitfalls.
Once you have mastered these three steps for writing down your ideas, vetting them out and finding new inspiration you will be on your way to making your own game. To help get you started, here are a few games I suggest trying out on the Amazon Appstore which inspire me:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
In this five part series you will get the basic foundation you will need to get started. In part one we’ll cover picking a framework and why you should use one designed specifically for game development.
To help you pick the right game framework, I have highlighted a few of the most popular ones which work great on Fire OS devices and are perfect for people getting started making their first game. I have arranged these from easy to hard based on the above criteria.
Construct 2 is as easy as it gets for making a game. It employs a drag-and-drop behavior system, where you build up game logic from pre-made scripts that are attached to your game’s elements.
Construct 2 games are built in HTML5 (although you never have to touch the code itself) and, because of this, it’s ideal for publishing your game on the Web. Construct 2 games also run on a number of different platforms too The only down side to Construct 2 is that you are removed from the coding aspect of making the game, so you are fully dependent on what Scirra has provided. And, while you can add additional functionality via plugins, it’s not ideal if you come from a coding background and want to manually tweak things yourself.
GameMaker is a great tool for making 2D games. It’s incredibly powerful, and a lot of well-known indie success stories got their start in GameMaker (“Spelunky,” “Hotline Miami,” etc.).
Right now, Unity is a very popular game framework. Similar to GameMaker it also has it’s own IDE and you can drag and drop behaviors but Unity requires a baseline of coding skills to get up and running.
The IDE is very polished and easy to use, but being a 3D tool means that there is a certain level of knowledge you will need before getting started. Unity supports three languages: UnityScript (which is similar to JS), C#, and Boo. Unity now has a free version that supports exporting to desktop and mobile that displays the Unity logo on startup. The pro version gets incredibly pricey but adds lots of must-have features for more advanced game developers. Also, Unity released a new Sprite workflow for anyone interested in making 2D games.
Sometimes you want to control every aspect of your code. HTML5 is a great place to do that, and it’s one of the only game platforms that allows you to target multiple platforms with the same code base, and include the browser on desktop and mobile as well.
There are a lot of really great HTML5 frameworks out there, but the two most popular are Impact ($100 license) and Phaser (free). The one thing to keep in mind is that you will have to manage browser compatibility across desktop and mobile, and native app distribution is still an issue. Also, in many cases you will need to bring your own tools, but seeing a game work perfectly in a mobile browser without a plugin opens up a lot of doors you would not get in a native mobile app store. On the flip side, we make it incredibly easy to test and publish HTML5 games on our devices via our Web App Tester.
Godot is a new and completely open source game engine that just caught my attention.
While I’ve not used it, it looks incredibly promising and one I wanted to put on other developers radars. It uses a scripting langue similar to Phython and promises to export to multiple platforms. It’s one that I hope to dig into a little more in the new year plus being completely open source means you can tinker with how the engine works under the hood.
While I could probably write an entire book on different game frameworks and platforms, I don’t want to overwhelm you. The good news is that, if you are just starting out, there is guaranteed to be a framework that is right for your skill level or game idea. If you are looking for some more resources on how to get started, we have a few blog posts to covering Phaser and Unity, which you may want to check out:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
The thing I’ve enjoyed most in the past year is connecting with so many amazing app devs. We’ve talked in person and on this blog about monetization, opportunities on FireTV, Fire Tablets, Fire phone and some cool new features. But, one line of questions consistently tops the list…
“How hard is it to get into the Amazon Appstore?”
While it’s easy to respond with “It’s easy, in fact most apps just work — it’s Android”, it’s always more fun and informative to say “Let’s try it right now!” Frankly, it’s the only way for an app developer to really know. As a dev myself, I’ve heard “it’s easy” a million times when it’s really a more complicated answer and depends on my specific situation. So, maybe a better question would be “What’s the minimum amount of work that I need to do to understand the true cost of publishing my app to Amazon." (hint: it’s easy!)
With that in mind, I’d like to highlight a set of blog posts that help you answer that question by giving you specific answers for your specific app in minutes.
All you need is your APK. Drag and drop it into the tool’s website. We’ll run a test pass and in minutes you’ll get a report including specific action items (if any), links to the documentation you need for each action item and screenshots of your app on device.
I’ve sideload apps with many developers and each time it’s really cool to see them light up when their app fires up. There’s a whole new set of Amazon Appstore customers available and it’s so close. Here’s how you can enable ADB and sideload on each of the Amazon devices and see your app running for yourself.
Happy New Year!
Paul Cutsinger (@PaulCutsinger)
An important success metric for any app is engagement: a measure of how frequently and how long people play your game. Amazon GameCircle is designed to help developers increase engagement through player Achievements, Leaderboards, and saved game syncing across multiple devices. Once you integrate GameCircle, players can seamlessly play games and interact with other gamers across mobile devices.
Now GameCircle social APIs offer new ways for you to improve player engagement by making it easier for players to connect with new friends. Using a simple API you can now pull GameCircle friends data into your game for players who use Amazon devices. Players using Amazon devices are able to create a profile for themselves, including a nickname and profile image, and can add other GameCircle players to their friends list. You can access this data and display it in your own games or use it to leverage custom social interaction features.
Players with friends play longer, but not all players have real-life friends playing your game right now. The GameCircle Friends API helps you solve that problem by enabling you to show your customers a list of suggested friends. By integrating a ‘Find Friends on GameCircle’ button into your game, players can easily click-through to their GameCircle Friends page to discover new friends who are also playing your game and add those suggested friends in just two clicks. GameCircle Friends doesn’t require players to grant your app permission or sign-in to access friends, so players can find and add new friends quickly and get back to playing your game sooner.
Add GameCircle Friends to your game today to increase player engagement. Getting started is easy:
Vision Mobile recently shared a new chart showing a higher percentage of Amazon Fire developers above the app poverty line versus other platforms. More specifically, 59% of developers distributing their apps on the Amazon Appstore make more than $500 per month versus <50% on other platforms. The chart also showed that developers continue to experience increased monetization in the Appstore - Amazon had a bigger proportion of developers making $5,000+ a month compared to developers on other platforms. We’re excited to see developers like you expand their reach and monetize apps through the Amazon Appstore.
Today the Amazon Appstore is available on more than just Fire devices including the all-new Amazon Fire TV Stick. The Amazon Appstore for Android is also pre-loaded on BlackBerry 10 devices and carriers including O2, EE, Deutsche Telecom and others on millions of Android devices. This wide reach gives your app access to even more customers. Plus, the latest Amazon shopping app fully integrates apps and games into the shopping experience enjoyed by millions of customers. So when customers are searching for products in the Amazon shopping app, they’ll also discover relevant apps and games that they may also enjoy. Here’s what some developers are saying about their experience with Amazon:
– Elad Kushnir, VP of Business Development at Playtika
– Jean-Baptiste, CEO at DJIT
P.S. The holidays are the best time of the year to submit your apps. Read our latest blog post to learn more: Three Important Stats About Holiday Device Sales
Are you a C# developer looking to publish your apps and games across multiple mobile platforms? Did you know that Xamarin fully supports Amazon’s growing ecosystem of devices including Kindle Fire tablets, Fire TV and Fire phone.
At Xamarin Evolve 2014 this month I facilitated a session on building native Amazon Fire phone, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet apps with Xamarin Studio (Click the image below to see the video).
This free video will walk you through how to quickly use Xamarin to run your apps and games on Amazon devices, as well as provide an overview of Amazon Appstore services that help developers get their app discovered and increase customer engagement and monetization. Now is the time! Using the same C# language you love and the power of Xamarin you can reach millions of potential new Amazon customers.
For more information about getting started with Xamarin Studio and Amazon Fire devices, check out the following additional resources:
It started with a 90 second test to see if your Android app is ready to launch in the Amazon Appstore.
Then there was added support for Fire phone and screenshots from the actual device.
Now, you can get the results from your device testing even if you don’t have a developer account. So, grab your APK and get test results in 90 seconds.
Test your apps for Fire Tablets, Fire Phone and Appstore for Android in just a few minutes. 75% of existing apps and games we've tested require no changes before going live. You can find out whether your app has any of the common issues that can block publication on the Amazon Appstore. Our App Testing Service also gives you access to additional test results that show you how your app looks and performs on live devices. Start the test here.
Are you a game developer already publishing Android games or looking to get started? Need a small, affordable tablet that is not only good for testing but can also play games and help you develop your own?
Well the new Fire HD 6 is an excellent gaming device in disguise, as well as the ultimate digital companion for game developers. At the low price of $99, you get an incredibly well built 6” Android based tablet powered by Fire OS and leverages the Amazon Appstore. This is the one device I have been incredibly excited about, and I wanted to add it to my game development toolset from the moment I got my hands on it.
I have a wide collection of tablets ranging from 13” all the way down. The one thing I have noticed is that for larger devices, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to play games on for long periods of time without my hands getting tired. Also, my hands are used to the size of game controllers and mobile gaming devices. The Fire HD 6 is roughly the same size and thickness of the base of the Nintendo 3DS XL. That means for games with virtual controls on the screen, it feels more natural to hold the tablet; you still have enough room for your thumbs and the controls without blocking the action.
Games like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Minecraft, Terraria, VVVVVV, Thomas Was Alone, Delver and many others with on-screen touch controls work great! Especially games where you can customize the size and position of the virtual controls, allowing you to maximize your view of the game will feel more natural on a 6” tablet. The other thing exciting about this device – and many of our other tablets - is the fact that you can also connect a Bluetooth game controller and create a portable Android gaming experience. Playing GTA with the controller, as it was intended to be played, is great. If you have an Amazon Fire Game Controller, connect it up to the Fire HD 6 and enjoy an incredibly portable gaming device. Also, with the new SlimPort connector, you can even connect the Fire HD 6 to the TV with a controller and play games on the big screen.
In addition to the Fire HD 6 being a capable gaming device, it’s also the perfect digital companion for game developers. Of course using it as an Android based testing device is probably number one in most developer’s minds. The fact that it runs productivity apps as well will help you even more. I use my Fire HD 6 as a digital sketchpad. With a copy of Sketchbook Pro, Wacom’s Bamboo Paper and a touchscreen stylus I am not only able to sketch out all my game ideas, literally in the palm of my hand, but I also don’t have to worry about my hand accidentally resting on the screen causing streaks in my artwork. The Fire HD 6 is a little bigger than the traditional moleskine notebooks I used to carry around, and with everything backed up in the cloud, I no longer worry about losing any of my drawings.
I also take lots of digital notes. I collect articles, websites, jot down ideas, or build to-do lists while I am working on a given project. The Amazon Appstore has Evernote, OneNote and may other note taking apps you probably already use on a daily basis. And since each of these solutions also takes advantage of cloud syncing, my notes are always with me wherever I go. I can easily jot down stuff on my computer and follow up on the go with my Fire phone, or use it as a companion next to my computer while I code.
Of course the Amazon Appstore has some big name games, but my own personal interest in mobile gaming is with indie devs and hobby developers. The Fire HD 6 is a new market for indie devs looking to reach customers looking to get an affordable small form factor tablet. There has never been a device at this size or price point from a well-known company such as Amazon that will appeal to consumers. Amazon already has a loyal fan base and adding a more affordable tablet to its holiday lineup means access to even more screens this holiday season.
Here in New York, I’ve been working with local indie devices such as Golden Ruby, who recently launched their hit game Worm Run on Fire tablets and Amazon Fire TV. Because they’re already part of the Amazon Appstore, they’re automatically available on the new line of Fire tablets.
Not only does their game look great on the new device, but since they take advantage of a single binary across all of our devices, Worm Run also supports a Bluetooth controller too. This means that developers who are already taking advantage of the Amazon Appstore and hardware ecosystem continue to grow their customer base as we bring new devices to market.
Developers like Charlie Schulze, who works part time on his games outside of his day job, is also excited about supporting the new Amazon devices.
His latest game, Squiggle Racer, has been growing in popularity on multiple platforms and it is great to see him bringing his game over to the Amazon Appstore. Not only can he now target this new Android powered device with his existing APK, but by adding in GameCircle and controller support, he can now reach customers across our entire family of devices from the Fire phone to Fire TV and of course all of our Fire tablets. Leveraging his current Android build, he was able to not only get his game up and running on our devices quickly, but also take advantage of a new distribution platform to help increase his user base.
For indies and developers who build games as a hobby, the Amazon Appstore offers a great opportunity to grow your user base. Plus, with the Fire HD 6’s affordable price, developers can get a fully functional, well-built Android-based tablet for all of their development needs. But it doesn’t stop at just the hardware and OS, we also offer all game developers some great APIs to increase engagement and help monetize their creations.
One of the key benefits of building a game on Fire OS, which powers all of our devices, is the deep integration it has with GameCircle. GameCircle represents more than just a way to add leader boards, achievements and cloud syncing to your game. It also enables developers to increase the player’s engagement in their game and automatically tracking their gamer progress across all of our devices. Each user has their own GameCircle profile that automatically syncs across any Fire OS device they own. As a developer, if you also implement Cloud Syncing you can also ensure that customers who bought your game and play on the Fire HD 6, or any Fire tablet, can continue their progress on their Fire TV and Fire phone.
In addition to GameCircle, we also offer more APIs critical for building a successful game such as:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman) is a Developer Evangelist at Amazon focusing on HTML5 and Games for the Amazon Appstore.
In a short 15 years, mobile technology has come a long way. Monochrome screens and 12-button keypads have given way to touchscreens and multi-touch input. Still, sound quality on mobile has been a nagging issue. Sure, there have been audio-centric devices, but the big sell was always the simple presence of audio, with no expectation of truly engaging sound reproduction. Developers had no guarantees that the time and effort they devoted to building a soundstage for games and apps would pay off. Many times, it didn’t.
Dolby Laboratories has been working in entertainment for nearly 50 years. If you’ve seen a movie, played a tape (how arcane!), played any AAA console games, or listened to music on your home audio/video receiver (AVR), chances are exceptionally high that Dolby has had a part in making that content sound as enticing as it does.
So, when the Dolby logo started appearing on mobile devices, it was a clear signal that audio was starting to take a front seat in the mobile experience.
The combination of Dolby® Digital Plus™ and Amazon’s Fire tablets creates a new standard in mobile entertainment. Users are now able to enjoy mobile content with high-quality audio—no compromises. The effect is dazzling. Amazon’s streaming video and music sounds deeper and richer on Fire tablets than on nearly any other mobile device. Mobile apps benefit from the technology as well, and hundreds of apps have added a new dimension of audio simply by leveraging Dolby Digital Plus via the Dolby Audio™ API for Android.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and HDX represented the first round of enhanced audio in mobile.
Now Amazon has leveled up to Round 2 with the announcement of the next generation of Fire tablets—including an 8.9" version that is the first tablet to feature Dolby Atmos and deliver theater-like experience over headphones with Amazon streaming movies.
Dolby Atmos was primarily designed to allow movie content producers to place sound in a three-dimensional space and create a more lifelike experience for filmgoers. If you’ve never seen a movie in Dolby Atmos, you need to. It transports you into the movie with breathtaking, multidimensional sound that fills the theater with amazing richness and depth. Sounds move all around you, including overhead, making you feel like you are truly inside the story. Dolby Atmos achieves this by rendering audio as objects that are controlled by metadata.
Here’s the really cool part: as an app developer deploying on the Fire OS, you’re ahead of the game. Audio elements in apps are already rendered as objects, so you can take advantage of Dolby Audio enhancements now. While Dolby Atmos sound isn’t available for apps, you can still leverage the benefits of Dolby technology by integrating the Dolby Audio API into your app or game. The benefits include:
Integration takes around 15 minutes, and plug-ins are available for Unity, Marmalade, Adobe Air, Xamarin, and Cordova.
The Dolby Audio API is available for free, and you will hear an immediate difference on Dolby technology-enabled devices like Amazon’s Fire tablets.
Now is the perfect time to differentiate your application by using enhanced audio. With mobile companies across the spectrum adding higher quality audio as a major selling point, apps using the Dolby Audio API are poised to grab the spotlight and delight customers with a new take on immersive experiences. Be the first to take advantage of Dolby technology on Fire tablets, and watch your users marvel at the deeper experience it affords.
Thanks to guest blogger Andy Vaughan of Dolby Laboratories for introducing Dolby Atmos and describing how Fire tablets use the technology to set a new standard for mobile audio. A 10-year mobile industry veteran and low-level audiophile, Andy knows the state of audio on mobile devices is ripe for change. Before delivering solutions for feature phones, smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, he helped launch developer programs for Rational Software, IBM, and Fortify Software.
Supporting the announcement of brand-new Fire tablets and enhancements to Fire OS, the App Testing Service (ATS) has been updated to work seamlessly with Fire OS. In as little as 90 seconds, you can receive a detailed report of potential issues that could affect compatibility with the Amazon Appstore—including guidance on how to resolve them before publishing. ATS can also run your app on actual Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7 devices, providing a comprehensive compatibility report (including screenshots) in as little as 15 minutes.
ATS performs a static analysis of your app’s manifest and optionally analyzes your app as it runs on actual device hardware (including the new 6” and 7” Fire tablets just announced). It performs tests that fall into three major categories:
Testing combines static analysis of how how your app runs on Fire OS as with analysis of your app as it runs on actual device hardware (including the new 6” and 7” Fire tablets just announced). Your app will be installed and launched, after which the service will explore activities it is able to identify. ATS will generate a report that includes test events, screenshots, CPU usage, and heap utilization during testing. You will also have access to detailed logs.
The testing process is optimized for apps built using native Android widgets, so if you create a custom user interface (for example, using OpenGL or HTML5) testing may be less extensive. Note that ATS does not collect login credentials, so it will not explore sections of your app where these are required.
Using ATS to check your app is fast and easy. All we need is your APK file, which you can drag and drop directly on the ATS widget located at the top-left of the Developer Portal home page.
Once you drop an APK file on the widget, your app will be uploaded to ATS and testing will begin.
Results of the initial analysis will be available in as little as 90 seconds.
We’ll provide specific instructions on how to resolve issues we discovered.
Device tests will also be performed, though analysis of those results will takes longer—usually between 15 minutes and 6 hours. If you have a developer account with Amazon, you can access those results from your ATS dashboard. If not, you may provide an email address and we will send the results to you as soon as they are available.
Device test results will provide links to screenshots captured during the testing process, letting you see how your app actually appeared while under test.
Once you have used ATS to test your app for potential compatibility issues, reviewed the test results, and made any updates necessary to address specific items called out by the service, you are ready to publish your app to the Amazon Appstore. Submit your app from the Developer Portal or drag and drop your APK to re-run the test; the initial results will include a big orange button to kick off the submission process.
If you don’t already have an Amazon developer account, note that you will be required to create one before you can submit your app to the Amazon Appstore. Creating a developer account is free, however. If you are an Amazon customer, you can even use your existing Amazon account, if you want.
See our Developer Portal for more information on the App Testing Service and
Amazon today introduced Fire OS 4 “Sangria,” the next generation of software and services that powers Amazon’s Fire devices, including three all-new Fire tablets introduced today. The Fire HD 6, Fire HD 7, and Fire HDX 8.9 tablets all give customers the power to watch, work, and play. Aggressively priced, they are highly affordable and will appeal to a whole new customer segment by introducing a smaller, lighter 6” HD tablet form factor.
This release introduces hundreds of new upgrades and platform enhancements, including:
All-new Fire OS 4 “Sangria”
Fire OS 4 “Sangria” starts with Android and adds a customer-friendly user interface, unlimited cloud storage of Amazon content and photos taken on your Fire device, latest productivity apps, and enhanced platform integrations to seamlessly access the best selection of digital content—more than 33 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, and Android apps and games.
Unmatched Entertainment Ecosystem
Fire OS 4 integrates our newest services including Prime Music, ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), and Kindle Unlimited. Second Screen headphone integration lets you watch Amazon Instant Video on a compatible big screen TV with headphones plugged into your tablet so you can enjoy the movie in enhanced Dolby Digital sound.
Built for Gaming
Fire tablets are built for the best in gaming with tilt, turn, and multi-touch controls. Customers get a new paid app for free everyday, and enjoy great discounts on popular games and apps. Plus, use Amazon Coins to purchase and save on apps, games, and in-app items. New Fire tablet owners in the US get 500 Amazon Coins—a $5 value.
Content in the Cloud
Every Fire tablet includes free unlimited storage in Amazon Cloud Drive for photos taken on the device, plus 5GB of storage for photos and files added to Cloud Drive from other devices.
Starting at $99, Fire tablets feature quad-core processors that more than double the speed and quadruple the graphics performance of previous models. Your apps launch faster and your customers enjoy a smoother and richer experience with better overall performance than ever before. Stunning HD displays and Dolby Audio make your apps and games shine.
Fire OS 4 is available on the new Fire tablets, with some features coming to the 3rd generation Kindle Fire HDX and Kindle Fire HD (released in 2013) as part of free, over-the-air Fire OS updates starting later this year.
Learn more about the new Fire tablet hardware and the software improvements announced today.
Fire OS 4 and the new Fire tablets are designed to provide fast and easy access to favorite books, songs, videos, and games. By deeply integrating software, content, and the Cloud, we build on Fire OS’s content-forward user interface to deliver innovative services that are available only from Amazon.
Fire OS is designed from the ground up to make it as easy and fast as possible for customers to access their favorite apps and content. The home screen Carousel and media libraries are automatically personalized to put your apps front and center in the app grid, providing easy, one-click access.
This means customers use your apps more, leading to more sessions, deeper engagement, and more opportunity to generate revenue. We expect these and many other features will make the new Fire tablets even more popular than their predecessors, further expanding the reach for your apps and games.
This year’s Fire tablets will be available to customers worldwide in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, China, and Australia. The Amazon Appstore is also available on Android devices in 236 countries to give your apps even more reach. According to an Amazon-sponsored IDC survey, 76% of developers say that Fire helps them connect with new customer segments that may be difficult to find on other platforms.
Fire tablets expand that reach even further, and with perfect timing. The holiday season is almost here, and Amazon devices have historically surged during this period. According to Flurry Analytics, Christmas Day sees a particularly large number of device activations—24 times the typical number for any other day in 2013, for example—so now is the time to develop a new app or bring your existing Android or web app to Fire tablets, Fire TV, or Fire phone.
Fire tablets run Fire OS, which is based on Android 4.4 (KitKat) and offers complete support for API Level 19. This means that it is incredibly easy to bring your Android APK to Amazon devices. Most Android apps we’ve tested work on Fire tablets without modification, so you can publish your apps to the Amazon Appstore with little or no effort and expand your potential audience by millions.
Use the App Testing Service to check the compatibility of your existing Android app in as little as 90 seconds. It will identify potential issues and explain how to resolve them, and then make submitting your app a breeze.
An IDC survey we commissioned found that developers make as much money per user (often more) when they sell their apps and games on Fire tablets, as compared to any other mobile platform. Playtika, for example, creator of highly immersive social games like Bingo Blitz, saw its highest average revenue per paying user (ARPU) on Fire tablets—70% higher than Android and 15% higher than iOS. Similarly, Crittermap saw superior results using the Amazon Mobile Ads API. Creators of BackCountry Navigator PRO, they earned higher eCPM than on other ad networks.
Fire tablets also support Amazon Mobile Ads, a cross-platform service to display banner, interstitial, and rich media ads inside your apps. You are paid for ad impressions, not just ad click-through events. Use it to monetize app sessions across Fire tablets, Fire phone, and all Android and iOS devices.
Amazon Mobile Ads is just one of many APIs available in Amazon’s Mobile App SDK, which also provides support for In-App Purchasing, A/B Testing, Maps, Login with Amazon, and GameCircle Achievements, Leaderboards, and Whispersync for Games. Build with our Mobile App SDK to get these services up and running quickly, and then use them to engage new customers, understand and improve their experience with your app, and increase revenue.
Learn more about Amazon’s monetization APIs on our website, where you will find Quick Start Guides and sample code to help you integrate them into your apps quickly.
The Amazon Appstore has never been available on a broader range of devices and platforms. It’s no wonder 65% of the surveyed developers also say that the Total Revenue achieved on the Kindle Fire is similar to, or even better than, what they experience with other major platforms.
The Amazon Appstore is preloaded on Kindle Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Fire phone devices. And recently, we announced that Fire TV is available in the UK and Germany. Amazon Fire TV makes it easy for users to stream movies, TV shows, and music as well as download apps and play games right on the HDTVs they already own.
Back in April, we announced the expansion of the Amazon Appstore to 41 new countries, including Egypt, Indonesia, Singapore, and Turkey. Publishing your Android app on Amazon means you can reach customers from around the world, including those in countries that were previously inaccessible.
The Amazon Appstore is not just available on Amazon devices; hundreds of thousands of customers have already downloaded the Amazon Appstore for Android. This announcement expands the distribution of Amazon Appstore apps and games on Android devices. And coming this fall, the Amazon Appstore will be preloaded on BlackBerry 10 devices, giving you access to another new global customer segment.
Download our Mobile App SDK today to get started developing for Fire OS and Amazon’s entire device family. You can even test your existing Android apps with our App Testing Service to see how they will actually work on Fire tablets and Fire phone. As the Amazon ecosystem grows, so does your potential audience.