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January 06, 2015

Jesse Freeman

Working on a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick app/game? Let us know at @AmazonAppDev with the following hashtag #MadeForFireTV

In April, Amazon introduced Amazon Fire TV, and it quickly became the best-selling streaming media box on Amazon.  Amazon Fire TV, made it easier for customers to watch Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, and more on their big-screen TV, and brought photos, music, and games to the living room.  In October, we brought the same experience customers love about Amazon Fire TV—ease of use, great performance, and vast selection—to a smaller and even more affordable device - Fire TV Stick.

For developers, one of the most exciting prospects of publishing your game on Amazon Fire TV is that you can run Android games directly on the TV. If you are already building games for Android, you can use the same codebase you currently have, and make that game playable on Amazon Fire TV.

While you may be familiar with targeting Android tablets and phones, there are a few things you need to consider for your app to run correctly on Amazon Fire TV.  Below is a quick round-up of some of the great content we created in 2014 to help make the transition easy.

Responsive Game Design: Making Games that Scale Across Desktop, Mobile & TV

Gone are the days where you can make a game and publish it to a single platform and expect to be successful. Like any business that sells consumer products, you need to go where the people are. That means the games you make should run on a multitude of different platforms and accept any number of different input types. With that in mind I have outlined what I call “responsive game design,” which is modeled loosely after some of the core concepts of responsive web design. It’s also a framework that will help you think about enabling your games to scale across multiple platforms.  Click here to learn more.

10 Tips for Remote & Controller

If you’re porting an existing Android app to Fire TV, you have to add support for user input from the Amazon Fire TV remote and maybe the Amazon Fire game controller. Luckily, basic controller support is already built into Android.  You can leverage the Android input device APIs and the game controller API from the Amazon Fire TV SDK to get your game ready to publish in no time. Here are the top ten things you should do in order to get your game ready for Amazon Fire TV customers.

Tips for Getting Your Android Apps Looking Good on Fire TV

While you may be familiar with targeting Android tablets and phones, there are a few things you need to consider for your app to run correctly on Amazon Fire TV. This includes understanding the layout, dimensions and orientation of Amazon Fire TV views, changes to the user experience when interacting with a TV (10’ away on average), UI and navigation patterns, as well as some other TV-specific gotchas such as overscan and color reproduction.  Here are some practical tips to help you get your Android apps looking good on Fire TV.

Building Apps & Casual Games for Fire TV Stick

Fire TV Stick is one of the most affordable devices on the market for creating apps and casual games intended for the big screen. The best part is if you are already building for Android, Fire TV stick is another great platform to help grow your audience.  In this post we cover how to get started, optimizing for Fire TV Stick as well as the hardware/software differences between the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV to help make your apps and games run great on both devices.

Reaching New Android Customers with Xamarin & Amazon Fire TV

Xamarin is a cross platform development environment that leverages the power of the C# programming language and takes full advantage of native hardware acceleration. Xamarin includes a suite of tools that allow you to test, build, and analyze your apps across all of the major mobile platforms. Utilizing Xamarin you can now publish your own apps and games to all Amazon Fire devices. This includes Amazon Fire tablets, Amazon Fire phone, Amazon Fire TV and the recently announced Amazon Fire TV Stick.  Click here to learn how to get your app or game running on Fire TV using Xamarin.

Introducing the Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV

Fire TV and Fire TV Stick both support HTML5 web apps. The Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV is a new open source project intended to help developers get up to speed quickly creating a simple media-oriented app for this exciting new web platform. Features of the project include an example user interface designed for the 10-foot user experience, support for the Fire TV remote control, and sample components to create and customize a media app. You can learn more about the Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV here.

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

 

December 30, 2014

Karen Wilder Huaulme

Recently Amazon launched a Live App Testing Service to the Amazon developer community.  Since it launched, this self-testing tool has proven invaluable in helping our partners work through issues and get their apps up and running in the Amazon Appstore.

Live App Testing allows you to quickly distribute your apps in the Amazon Appstore to a pre-defined set of testers before you go live.  The testers will be able to sample the full suite of Amazon services - including in-app purchasing - against our production environment, so you can ensure your app is working as expected.   In addition to basic functionality, this tool allows you to test GameCircle Achievements and Leaderboards, Facebook integration and connectivity, Amazon Device Messaging, Maps and other features in a live Amazon Appstore environment - without needing the SDK tester and independent of anyone at Amazon. This allows you to gather feedback, improve quality, increase stability and optimize the experience before you push your app live for all customers to download.

No more submitting and crossing your fingers. Basically you will see exactly what your customers would see if the app were live in the store.

Getting Started

Log into your developer account at the Appstore Developer Portal and go to your application’s page. Now go to the Live App Testing tab to create your LAT version for this app. The first screenshots I am attaching will show you the interface for an application entitled Wordy Nerds.

Now work your way across, filling out all the information for Availability & Pricing, Description, Images & Multimedia. Every one of the tabs on the top will have to have a green check mark indicating completion in order to launch your Live App Test for your app.

Next on the Binary tab, click EDIT. Then make sure you check off the EXPORT COMPLIANCE and add the .APK in the Add Binary Box. Live App Testing even supports multi-binary submissions. After saving, don’t forget to hit Submit!

Once you click Submit, the app will start publishing to a test cloud. This process can take up to a few hours.

Now the Fun Stuff – Testing!

At this point, you may add testers by inputting their email address. You can enter up to 500 email addresses. These do not have to be work email addresses. You can add friends, family – whomever you choose - and you can add them or remove them at any time. When you input your tester email addresses, they will go into your available tester pool for all your apps. You can then assign all or a subset of these testers to your live app test.

Once publishing is completed, which can take a few hours, your testers will receive an email invitation (see below). In it, they will get a link to your app’s test page on www.amazon.com with instructions on how to download and install your Android application from the Amazon Appstore on Fire devices and any Android phone or tablet, in accordance with the supported devices you specified in the Amazon Developer Portal.

Once your tester has accepted the live app test from the Amazon Appstore, he or she may download and test freely on as many devices registered to his/her Amazon account in a live production environment.

Remember, Live App Testing is a great way to test:

  • Basic functionality and visual quality
  • GameCircle Achievements and Leaderboards
  • 3rd party SDK integration and connectivity such as Facebook
  • Amazon Device Messaging
  • Maps
  • IAP integration

And it’s completely free! Even though the IAP items are priced and presented as you set up, all IAP items are reduced to $0.00 at the time of transaction.

Bells and Whistles: App Testing Service and Crash Reporting

In addition to this hands-on testing experience for your testers, Amazon’s Live App Testing service also automatically gives you  crash reports and results from Amazon’s App Testing Service.

From the crash report, you can see what kind of error caused the crash and even obtain the stack trace for debugging.

Amazon’s App Testing Service (ATS) is a self-service static analysis tool leveraging standard Android tools and adding Amazon’s unique new debugging and development capabilities AppXplorer and TRACE. Built on top of Android tools such as UI Automator and dumpsys, AppXplorer helps validate visual integrity, while accurately detecting crashes. TRACE is an on-device agent that collects screen shots, logs, CPU performance information, memory usage and data usage.

This powerful tool is run on your app automatically when you submit a live app test, and results will show up within minutes on your Live App Test dashboard. In addition to any problems reported, you will also find helpful links to relevant blogs and articles on the developer.amazon.com website.

For instance, in the results page below, ATS results indicate linking to other market places. 


The link at the bottom of the page will take you to a website advising how to link to the Amazon Appstore instead.

Also, if a crash is detected, you can download the crash logs immediately.


Done Testing. Now What?

The sprocket icon on your app page allows you to Edit, End Test or Promote to Upcoming. If after testing, you find that you are not happy with your APK, you may re-work your APK, and re-submit by creating a new test. Once submitted and successfully published, the previous LAT will end while retaining all the tester entitlements so your testers can try the newly submitted version. Please note that you can have as many LAT submissions as you wish, but only one is in progress at a time.

And Finally – Submission

When you have gone through all the LAT iterations you need and are happy with your build, then you can now directly submit to the Amazon Appstore by clicking the “Promote to Upcoming” option. You will have to fill out any missing metadata, but you will not need to re-upload the APK. Your app should now fly through testing!

 

Amazon Developer Pre-Submission Testing Workflow Using Live App Testing

As an Amazon developer, Live App Testing provides you with a comprehensive and friction-free runway to get your app launched as quickly and smoothly as possible in the Amazon Appstore. This valuable tool should be included as part of your testing regimen to ensure a more robust application, smoother submission process, and a happier customer.

Try Live App Testing Today

  • Click here to register for a Free Amazon developer account.
  • Click here learn more about Live App Testing.
  • Clich here to learn about Amazon’s App Testing Service

 

December 15, 2014

Mike Hines

Sometimes seeing is believing. Certainly that’s true for me and the games I might want to play. Take Spheriod Cyclone, for example. It’s $0.99, so it’s not risk-free. if I get it and I don’t like it, I’m out a buck. But Alex Swan, the developer, gave me a way to see what it would be like to play the game by posting game play video to the app detail page.

Take a look at the video on this detail page for yourself and see if you think the video does a much better job of selling the game than the static images do.  Interested in having your own video? Here is how to do it!

Taking a Video of Your App

Don’t pull our your phone and take a video of your app running on another device; that makes your detail page look a bit like amateur-hour. Instead, you can record the gameplay directly from your Fire OS 4.5.1 devices and KitKat Android devices using Android Debug Bridge (ADB). Here is how you do that:

Connect your Fire OS 4.5.1 device or KitKat Android device to a computer with ADB installed (currently Gen 3 & 4 Fire HD and HDX tablets).  From the Terminal app on your computer, run the following ADB command:

adb shell screenrecord --bit-rate 4000000 --time-limit 15 /sdcard/vidcap.mp4

This command creates a 4mbps video 15 seconds long in your sdcard directory called vidcap.mp4. This gave me a file 7.7MB on disk with acceptable video quality. When I want better quality, I use bit-rate 8000000 and get a 12.5MB file.

You can then upload that video to Amazon via the instructions below:

Adding HD Video to Your Detail Page

If you want to submit up to 5 videos for your app on your detail page, do the following:

In your developer portal, go to the images and Multimedia tab.

Scroll to the bottom of the page, click the Upload Video button, and select the MP4 you created in the steps above.

What kind of file do you need to submit?

The ADB command I list above will create an acceptable file for you to use. If you have video from other sources, it needs to follow these requirements:

Files need to be either:         MPEG-2, WMV, MOV, FLV, AVI, or H.264 MPEG-4

Resolution:                             720 - 1080px wide (4:3 or 16:9)

Quality:                                   1200 kbps (1.2 mbps) or higher
Size:                                        Up to 150MB, use the portal control.

(for files larger than 150MB, you will need to use SFTP instead of the upload control. For instructions on SFTP, see: SFTP instructions and naming convention)

No Time Like The Present

So capture some video of your game and post it to your detail page today! Customers will be happy you did.

  • Click here to register for your free Amazon developer account.
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile App SDK.
  • Learn more about how to market your app on the Amazon Appstore

 

November 24, 2014

Peter Heinrich

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.

Make It Easy for Players to Find Friends

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

Add GameCircle Friends to your game today to increase player engagement.  Getting started is easy:

 

November 19, 2014

Judith Hoffmann

Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores just went live on Amazon as an Android exclusive. Dan Gray, Executive Producer of the game, reflects on his experience and offers helpful tips to developers.

Ustwo is a 120-head design studio based in Shoreditch, East London. Our main activities evolve around designing digital products like apps and services for clients. The game-side of the business, and with it Monument Valley, is actually really small – only 9 of us work on games. As such, Monument Valley was never part of the core business of ustwo. With all of us having a lot of freedom in what we wanted to create, our team were inspired to create the most beautiful product possible. Four months later, after vigorous prototyping sessions and lots of different concepts and mechanics, we came up with a visual basis that became Monument Valley in April 2014. Our emphasis was on quality, not quantity, and on engagement over distraction.

     

Based on our experience creating Monument Valley and Forgotten Shores, we’ve gained some interesting insights into building games.

Premium over Freemium

Premium can still monetize even in a world when many games are moving toward freemium—Monument Valley broke even in only 7 days!

A year ago, most people in the industry believed that you were wasting your time creating a premium game and that nobody would pay for it but we thought that adding leaderboards, achievements and consumables would distract the users from the experience they were having. What that meant was that we had zero ways to make our development costs back without charging a fee for it. Consequently, at $3.99, the game has a price point that some may consider high.

We had no idea that the game would be as successful as it turned out to be, and in such a short time span. We expected to break even after 1 year, but instead we reached that milestone after only 7 days. In addition, it was very surprising that a high proportion of our Android downloads came from Amazon. In fact, 25-30% of our revenue on Android comes from the Amazon Appstore.

Engagement over Distraction

Games can target people who don’t see themselves as gamers through providing a great user experience

We have a very big emphasis on our social interaction with people since last year. Before we released Monument Valley we had 350 followers on Twitter. Now we have almost 40,000 followers, people who are really dedicated as well. If your customers feel they are part of the development process, it humanizes you as a developer and creates a much stronger bond between you and your customers.

What surprised us most was the breadth of users, ranging from 9 year-olds to grandparents. We thought we would have a broad range, but this completely blew us away.

Monument Valley takes Ida and her friend Totem through a mysterious world of geometric structures. The story ends after chapter 10, and we didn’t want to challenge the finality of this by bringing out a sequel. But we did have so many ideas for more mechanics that we wanted to explore. And customers were screaming for more content, asking us every single day: ‘When is the new Monument Valley out?’ That’s when we decided to create Forgotten Shores, the forgotten chapters you didn’t know existed. They are extra chapters that take place within the main story of Monument Valley, without conflicting with Ida’s journey and without disrupting the user’s experience.

Quality Over Quantity

Text Box:

Quality can still sell games—Ustwo has a team that is passionate about gaming and focused their efforts on a beautifully designed game

At the get go it is not about making money, but about making a great product with the hope that it would lead to success. It has been a long 7 months since we first launched Monument Valley. Our main learning from this experience is that there are genuinely many people out there that care about high quality products. We invested a lot personally in making this game and to know that our stake has been repaid by those players is a very good feeling.

Generally speaking, when you are coming up with a game concept, the most important factor is not the business side, your technology or your game engine. It is the passion in making that game that is more powerful than anything else. Make sure that every single person on the team cares about the game. Empower them and allow them to feel like it is theirs. Everyone on the team needs to be trusted with the creative directions so they are emotionally engaged with it.

After these exciting last months, we are going to take some time off from Monument Valley for a while. Until then, we hope you enjoy Forgotten Shores.

 

 

 

Meet Ida and Totem and explore Monument Valley’s Forgotten Shores by downloading the game on the Amazon Appstore (or download Amazon Appstore onto your Android device). Find more information about the Amazon Appstore Developer Program on the Developer Portal.

About Dan Gray and ustwo

Text Box:

Dan Gray is an Executive Producer for Monument Valley & Land's End at ustwogames, ex Producer at Hello Games & Lionhead Studios. BAFTA Breakthrough Brit 2014.

 

 

Text Box:  Text Box:  ustwo is a global digital design studio with a 200-strong family of designers, developers and strategists based in New York / London / Malmö, Sweden. We create meaningful digital products and services that drive innovation for the world's leading brands, the next big things and our own product initiatives. Founded in 2004 by two friends, Mills and Sinx, as a 'studio of dreams' – a place where people come to do the best work of their lives. Our heritage and ambition remain to this day and has seen us grow from humble beginnings in London into a global family with a proven track record of delivery from concept to launch.

We consider user-centered design and integrated design & development the foundation to deliver standout user experiences. Our studios are self-sufficient homes to multi-discipline design and multi-platform development teams, all committed to agile process. Together, our designers and developers work and collaborate directly with our clients (we don't have 'account management' layers in the way). Driven by our focus on good process we are always open to new ways of doing what we do better.

We're a studio not an agency, so for us it’s about good design & development practices, iterative product design and products going live. We're independent, self-funded and on a mission to grow and establish a world leading studio with a work and revenue blend of client service, own product, joint venture and games.

 

 

 

 

October 21, 2014

Paul Cutsinger

Player engagement is the key to success for most mobile games, and Amazon GameCircle is designed to help developers increase engagement through player Achievements, Leaderboards, and saved game syncing across multiple devices.

Game developers using the Corona Labs SDK can now integrate GameCircle into their Android games using the Corona plugin. The Corona SDK enables developers to build mobile apps and games for multiple platforms including Amazon Fire, Android, and iOS devices. Developers program in Lua and call the Corona SDK, which is built on a C++/OpenGL platform to optimize for graphic applications.

Corona's GameCircle plugin implements nearly all of the GameCircle APIs, including submitting the local player's scores & achievement progress, displaying GameCircle overlays, getting achievement and leaderboard data and using Whispersync for Games to synchronize game progress across multiple devices. GameCircle Friends data is available through filtered leaderboards.

Here are some links to help you get started:

Learn more about GameCircle with the following links:


@PaulCutsinger

 

September 26, 2014

Jesse Freeman

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.

The Perfect Size For Gaming

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.

Game Developer's Companion

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.

Enabling Indies

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.

Game Services

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:

  • In-App Purchasing API can help with conversion by enabling millions of Amazon customers to purchase your game using Amazon 1-Click settings.
  • Amazon Mobile Ads serves up high quality ads to help you monetization your game. Right now you can earn a guaranteed $6 eCPM running interstitial ads through August and September (iOS apps, too!)
  • Amazon Coins is a virtual currency built into our Appstore, which developers can use as incentives with their customers.
  • Appstore Developer Select gives you more ways to get your app discovered and used with free advertising/merchandising and up to 500,00 Coins rewards.
  • HTML5 publishing tools for web developers looking for a simple way to get their HTML5 games on native platforms.

Learn More

 

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman) is a Developer Evangelist at Amazon focusing on HTML5 and Games for the Amazon Appstore.

 

September 22, 2014

David Isbitski

Fire TV can help you increase your customer base by putting your app in the living room, in front of people who enjoy entertainment and may not have seen your apps before.  This quick video details 10 tips to help you quickly optimize your app or game for the 10-foot experience, and covers how to get 500K Amazon Coins if your app qualifies for Appstore Developer Select.

Fire TV is currently available in the US and retails for $99. Fire TV will ship on September 25, 2014 in Germany (€99) and October 23, 2014 in the UK (£79).

For more information about getting started with Amazon Fire TV, check out our online documentation:

Purchase an Amazon Fire TV in the US, UK or Germany

Amazon Fire TV SDK Frequently Asked Questions

Amazon Fire TV SDK

Device Specifications

Display and Layout

User Interface

Design and User Experience Guidelines

Android Developer Multiple Screen Guidance

Supporting Different Screen Sizes

Supporting Different Densities

 

- Dave (@TheDaveDev)

September 03, 2014

Judith Hoffmann

We frequently hear from developers that allocating resources and prioritizing investments can be a tough decision.

Tivola, a kids and family games publisher based in Hamburg, Germany, was not sure if they should build an Android version of their apps until they heard that apps were monetizing well on Amazon – sometimes even better than on other Android platforms. The return on investment that Amazon could potentially deliver inspired them to take the plunge, with Amazon as their Android partner. Their apps were live when Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV launched in the US, and today they see Amazon as a core part of their strategy.   

Recently we had the chance to meet in person with Hendrik Peeters, COO of Tivola, and he shed some light on Tivola’s experience with Amazon.

Tivola Goes from PC to Game Consoles to Mobile Devices

The developers at Tivola are the creative brains behind 50 apps, including PetWorld 3D and the popular Fire TV game Grandpa and the Zombies. Founded in 1995, Tivola has nearly 20 years of experience building innovative and entertaining apps and games for kids and families.

   

Tivola is quick to respond to the constantly evolving business environment. They have pivoted their strategy and moved from selling games on PC CD-ROM, to games consoles, and now to apps and games on mobile devices. Tivola published their first iOS app in 2011 and chose Amazon as the first platform on which to publish their Android apps in 2012.

33% Higher ARPU than on Alternative Android Platforms

Reflecting on why they built Android apps for Amazon first, Hendrik says that what ultimately affected the decision was the personal support they knew they would get with Amazon. Hendrik states that monetization on Amazon is stronger than expected, with ARPU being 33% higher than on alternative Android platforms. In the US specifically, ARPU for free titles is up to 4 times more than on Google Play. Hendrik ties the high monetization they’ve seen to Amazon’s customer base:

“Amazon provided a unique platform where we can distribute apps to an audience of invested parents who are interested in high quality content and are happy to pay money for it.”

As a kids and family games publisher, Tivola acts very carefully when offering in-app purchasing, so a customer base who is willing to pay for an app upfront plays a crucial role in Tivola’s success. Indeed, Tivola’s preschool-level games perform very well on Amazon, achieving ratings of 4.7 stars on Amazon.de.

70% of Revenue from International Markets

Having understood early on that they have to distribute their apps globally, Tivola have emphasised localisation to expand abroad successfully. For example, Tivola worked very hard to publish Grandpa and the Zombies in 9 different languages, which, according to Hendrik, was a crucial customization to reach customers outside Germany. Indeed, localisation has enabled that 70% of revenue from their kids games and casual games now comes from outside Germany. The Free App of the Day promotion of Grandpa and the Zombies exemplifies this success, with 2/3 of downloads coming from the United States.

Tivola Published Their Apps on Fire TV for Day of Launch

Confident in their success on Amazon’s tablet devices in the US, Tivola decided to have their apps live on Fire TV for when it launched in the US in April 2014. Indeed, their game Grandpa and the Zombies was one of the first apps on Fire TV. As Hendrik explains:

“We were excited to be part of something big. We saw it as investing in the future and we wanted to be there from the beginning.”

He strongly encourages developers to be present on a platform from the very beginning. As Tivola discovered first-hand with Fire TV, the high discoverability they got from a brand new platform is a clear advantage and incentive to invest in it.

Getting Started

  • Fire TV is now available in the UK and Germany - learn more.
  • Learn more about Fire TV here.
  • Read about the Appstore Developer Select program for Fire TV
  • Find out more about the Free App of the Day promotion, as well as other marketing and merchandising opportunities, here.

 

September 03, 2014

Lauren Stark

Today, Amazon announced the availability of Amazon Fire TV in the UK and Germany. Amazon Fire TV is the best-selling streaming box on Amazon in the US since it launched in April, and 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.

For developers, Fire TV can help you increase your customer base by putting your app in the living room, in front of people who enjoy entertainment and may not have seen your apps before. With this expansion to customers in the UK and Germany, you’ll be able to reach even more customers on Fire TV. To promote rich user experiences, Fire TV enables full-featured game controllers, Dolby Digital Plus Certified surround sound and more. Android developers will find that developing for Fire TV is familiar, and optimizing their apps for the new controllers and TV display will not require learning a new language or new frameworks.

Fire TV is currently available in the US and retails for $99. Fire TV will ship on September 25, 2014 in Germany (€99) and October 23, 2014 in the UK (£79).

Here are some resources that we’ve published to help you get started with Amazon Fire TV.

Getting Started with Fire TV

  • Amazon Fire TV Overview: Put Your Apps and Games on More Screens: A video overview of Amazon Fire TV and the opportunity that it brings for game developers. (May 29, 2014).
  • Tips for Getting Your Android Apps Looking Good on Amazon Fire TV: Looking to get your Amazon App or Game on the new Amazon Fire TV?  We showed you how to get started and covered the top things you will need to know to be successful on TV. This included understanding Amazon Fire TV video outputs, updated Android layouts, TV overscan and colors, navigation, notifications and handling web content (April 17, 2014).
  • ADB Debugging: How to Test Your Android APK on Fire TV. We released a video that walks through ADB debugging on Amazon Fire TV (May 29, 2014).

Game Development for Fire TV

  • Building Responsive Game Design: Making Games That Scale across Desktop, Mobile and TV: We talked about responsive game design and what you can do to have your game run across multiple platforms and form factors like Tablets, Phones and now Amazon Fire TV (April 30, 2014).
  • Building for the next Generation of Gamers with Fire TV: We covered how the Amazon Fire TV now offers you access to an entirely new generation of kids growing up as gamers. While traditional console game development is still out of reach for most, the Fire TV enables developers to target the casual gaming audience right now. It’s also an opportunity to be one of the first TV-based games that kids play (April 22, 2014)
  • 10 Tips for Remote and Controller: We shared 10 Tips for adding remote and game controller support to your Amazon Fire TV games. One of the most exciting prospects of publishing your game on Amazon Fire TV is that you can run Android games directly on the TV. If you are already building games for Android, you can use the same codebase you currently have, and make that game playable on Amazon Fire TV (April 10, 2014).

In addition to the resources I’ve included above, be sure to check out these additional resources:

Purchase an Amazon Fire TV in the US, UK or Germany

Amazon Fire TV SDK Frequently Asked Questions

Amazon Fire TV SDK

Device Specifications

Display and Layout

User Interface

Design and User Experience Guidelines

Android Developer Multiple Screen Guidance

Supporting Different Screen Sizes

Supporting Different Densities

 

September 02, 2014

Jesse Freeman

If you haven’t noticed, we are doing a lot to make the Amazon Appstore the ideal place to publish games. With a wide range of form factors covering tablet, phone, TV and dedicated game services, we want our platform to be the next stop for your title.

If you have been thinking about expanding your game’s user base, there has never been a better time to publish on the Amazon Appstore.

From Android To Fire – Chances Are Your Game Already Works

Our platform is the perfect fit for any developer publishing Android games. We’ve found that most Android apps we tested just work on Fire mobile devices. Chances are good that you will not have to change a single line of code to get your game running on our devices. We also support all the major game frameworks such as Unity, GameMaker, Unreal, Corona and Air. In addition, we even offer tools to help you publish HTML5 games just like native ones. Basically, if your IDE outputs an APK we can run it! So if you are developing for Android and looking for a new opportunity to expand your audience on mobile, tablet and TV you should check out our device lineup.

One OS, Multiple Form Factors: Phone, Tablet & TV

For the first time in Amazon’s history, we have a complete device ecosystem for publishing your game. Our devices are powered by Fire OS, a custom build of Android optimized to run exclusively on our hardware.

Got a mobile game? Try out our Fire Phone which features top end specs, dedicated GPU, 2gb of ram and unique features such as Dynamic Perspective and Firefly.

Building for tablet? We have several tablets, including two high-end versions called the Kindle Fire HDX, which come in both 8.9" and 7” sizes. Each tablet has blazing fast processes as well and high-resolution HD displays. Our Kindle Fire HD lineup also has great performance at a more affordable price point for customers.

Want to build your games for the big screen? Target Fire TV, which allows you to take Android games and publish them for the 10-foot living room experience.

Each of these devices has you covered no matter where you are coming from.  In addition to the hardware, we do even more to create one cohesive developer experience with our gaming services.

Gaming Services

We have services designed exclusively for game developers such as GameCircle. It’s integrated into the Fire OS and offers leader boards, achievements as well as cloud syncing of game data across devices. With cloud syncing we make it easy to not only backup your player’s game data but make it available on all of our platforms to better leverage Amazon customers with multiple Fire OS devices.

Anyone who owns a Fire OS enabled device has access to his or her own gamer profile. It moves with them across different Fire OS enabled device. This allows them to maintain their player stats and achievements no matter how they want to play. If your current game has leader boards, achievements and cloud syncing it shouldn’t take long to migrate over to our APIs. We even support Unity and other 3rd party game frameworks.

In addition to GameCircle, we also offer more APIs critical for building a successful game such as:

  • In-App Purchasing API can help with conversion by enabling millions of Amazon customers to purchase your game using Amazon 1-Click settings.
  • Amazon Mobile Ads serves up high quality ads to help you monetization your game. Right now you can earn a guaranteed $6 eCPM running interstitial ads through August and September (iOS apps, too!)
  • Amazon Coins is a virtual currency built into our Appstore, which developers can use as incentives with their customers.
  • Appstore Developer Select gives you more ways to get your app discovered and used with free advertising/merchandising and up to 500,00 Coins rewards.
  • HTML5 publishing tools for web developers looking for a simple way to get their HTML5 games on native platforms.

The Amazon Appstore

The Amazon Appstore is the main vehicle for you to distribute your game on our platforms as well on other Android devices. While the Amazon Appstore comes built into every Fire OS powered device, Android users can also download the store to access our library of apps and games. The Amazon Appstore offers customers a way to buy a single game across our devices or you can configure different APKs per devices via our multiple binary uploader. You have full control over how your game shows up on the store. If you are already building for Android, why not grow your reach with Amazon customers?

Get Started For Free

It’s completely free to publish your games to the Amazon Appstore. To become a developer, simply sign up at the top of the developer portal and create your own account. Once you submit your app, it goes through an approval process. This ensures that it works correctly on our devices before going into the store. Once in the store, you’ll have access to millions of Amazon customers looking for great games.

Additional Resources

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman) is a Developer Evangelist at Amazon focusing on HTML5 and Games for the Amazon Appstore.

 

August 20, 2014

Peter Heinrich

GameCircle has provided an Adobe Native Extension (ANE) since its first release, making it possible for mobile developers to create GameCircle-enabled games using Adobe AIR.

That ANE has now been updated to support features and improvements introduced in the latest version of GameCircle, including:

  • Expanded coverage for Android, Kindle Fire, Fire TV and Fire phone devices
  • The latest version of Whispersync for Games
  • Support for UI string localization and other UI improvements
  • Social APIs
  • Analytics on player achievements
  • Consistent Security Profiles and API Keys

Compatible with Flash Professional and Flash Builder 4.7, the GameCircle ANE can be used with the Adobe AIR SDK version 4.0 or higher.

The new GameCircle ANE is bundled in the Amazon Mobile App SDK. For more information, see the GameCircle 2.4 for Adobe Air documentation

How to Upgrade

If you’re updating from the GameCircle ANE version 1.0 to 2.4, here’s a brief step by step. See the full documentation for additional help.  

Step 1: Update the ANE File

Replace your local com.amazon.extensions.GameCircle.ane file with the latest version from the Amazon Mobile App SDK.

Step 2: Set the API Key

When building with the extension and targeting Android, you'll need to include a file named api_key.txt in the assets subfolder of your package. The contents of the file should be your project’s API Key. 

Step 3: Change the Application Descriptor

Make sure that you are using the AIR 3.5 SDK or higher (set this in your application descriptor file, application.xml), include the extension in the app descriptor file, and add your GameCircle-specific data to the <android>/<manifestAdditions> element, as appropriate. For a working example, see example-src/app.xml.

Step 4: Update API Calls

Update your code to reflect these changes in the GameCircle API:

  • The method create() no longer takes any parameters.
  • The method submitAchievement() is now updateAchievementProgress().
  • The method loadScores() no longer takes the parameters startRank and scoreCount.
  • The GameCircleEvent class now has subclasses specific to each API call.
  • The data type of all score-related values has changed from int to number. This includes GameCircleScore scoreValue; SubmitScoreCompleted score, newAllTimeScore, newDailyScore, and newWeeklyScore; GameCirclePercentile score; and LoadLocalPlayerScoreCompleted score.

Step 5: Update Whispersync for Games Event Handling

In version 1 of the AIR extension, when using the Whispersync SharedObject, you handled conflict resolution with the whisperSyncRevert() and whisperSyncSynchronizeProgress() methods. In version 2, progress syncs automatically in the background, and conflict resolution has been simplified. If you‘re working with Whispersync SharedObject, follow the instructions on how to use the SharedObject with Whispersync.

Step 6: Add New API Functionality

The new version includes these new methods:

  • showSignIn() displays the GameCircle sign-in page.
  • loadLocalPlayer() gets the current player’s GameCircle profile.
  • showLeaderboards() displays the GameCircle overlay showing all leaderboards for a game.
  • loadAchievement() gets data for a single achievement.
  • loadPercentiles() gets percentile ranks for a leaderboard.

For More Information

There has been a lot of interest in an ANE supporting all the latest GameCircle features, and this update makes it that much easier to take advantage of them in games you create with Adobe AIR. See the online documentation for more information about the update, or explore the examples included in the Amazon Mobile SDK.

-peter (@peterdotgames)

 

January 29, 2014

Mike Hines

Last week, I wrote to tell you about the new Dolby SDK that makes it easy for you to optimize the sound on the device to match the different kinds of audio you use in the course of your app. This week, we have some feedback from a developer who has implemented the Dolby Plug-In for their app on Kindle Fire.

Luxurious Animals is a game developer in New York. They wrote the casual game Lux Ahoy!, a netmagazine.com Top-10 game. Before working with Dolby Digital Pro, they didn’t consider audio to be a key component.  However after using the Dolby Plug-in, Luxurious Animals had this to say: “The API created a much richer and more immersive experience, making the game feel more exciting and absorbing.  It really took our game to the next level.”

Overall, Luxurious Animals found the Dolby Plug-in to be easy to work with and required no changes to the overall workflow:

“Adding the Dolby magic to our app was as easy as linking a JAR file with our project and calling Dolby-specific methods from our app. We used the Game audio profile inside the API, which creates a ‘live’ space to best bring out the effect of fast-moving objects in the audio. The API also offers Music, Movie and Voice profile options.  We had Dolby capabilities in the game up and running in less than 15 minutes. The API package comes with a Javadocs and a quick-start guide along with a sample application showing how Dolby APIs should be invoked.

Today, we have a fun casual game that not only has great-looking graphics, but also a rich soundtrack that pulls users in and holds their attention. We are confident these enhancements have increased the overall experience for our customers on the Kindle Fire HD.”

I’m thrilled that Luxurious Animals has been able to improve the customer experience for relatively little effort; it speaks well to the smart API design by the Dolby development team.  

To learn more about the Dolby Digital Plus SDK, please read the previous blog post on the topic here, or get the SDK directly from Dolby here.

 

January 17, 2014

Mike Hines

Dolby has just released a new Dolby Audio Plug-In for Kindle Fire HD and HDX that helps developers deliver even better audio to their users. Developers can now select an audio profile to optimize the sound based on the kind of audio being delivered. This means optimized audio setting for voice during your app’s dialog, and optimized settings for broad-range sound during your app’s action sequences. All with just a few lines of code you can insert into your app, no re-architecting required!

This isn’t the first time Amazon and Dolby have collaborated. Amazon and Dolby worked together on hardware and software enhancements for the Kindle Fire HD and HDX line of tablets for their launch, delivering Dolby Digital post-processing for native apps. But now Dolby has raised the bar again with Dolby Digital Plus, and the new Dolby Audio APIs for Kindle Fire. (Fear not, Unity fans. There is a Unity plug-in for you too.)

When you use the Dolby Audio Plug-in APIs, you can choose from four audio profiles to tune your sound profile to match the audio use in your app. For example, you can tune your app to use the Voice profile for dialog-heavy parts of your app, and the Game profile for first-person-shooter action. Here are the profiles you can choose from:

-Music: Applies equalization and dynamic range control to enrich instrumental and vocal quality in recorded music

-Movie: Clarifies the dialogue while providing the best representation of the full dynamic range of the program

-Game: Creates a ‘live’ space to best bring out the effect of fast-moving objects in the audio

-Voice: Customized for the reproduction of speech patterns and the tonal range of the human voice

This lets you deliver an optimized audio experience to your users, and it takes very little time to do so. Here are the high level steps to implement this API:

1.      Load the Dolby JAR file and import the DolbyAudioProcessing libraries

2.      Create a OnDolbyAudioProcessingEvent listener

3.      Call getDolbyAudioProcessing to get an instance of the Class (only done once for lifetime of the app)

4.      Wait for the app to connect to the DolbyAudioProcessing handler

5.      Instantiate the audio profiles as needed to in your app (Voice for dialog heavy parts, Game for FPS parts, etc…)

6.      Restore default audio behavior if your app is in the background

7.      Restore default audio behavior by releasing the Dolby instance on destroy

Setting the sound profile to use at different points in your app is pretty easy (see below).

    

You can set profile to Music, Movie, Game or Voice as appropriate at that location in your app.

Overall, integrating the API takes about an hour and does not require re-designing any logic or workflow. It’s a small investment for a big win.

You can download the free sample apk right away so you can hear for yourself how nice this is. To download the API, you need to sign up for a free developer account with Dolby (which took me less than 30 seconds).

Dolby has done a good job of making this easy to deploy. When you download the API package, you’ll get everything you need to get started, including javadocs, a quick start guide, and sample code showing exactly how to invoke Dolby APIs. You can download the free Dolby Audio Plug-in on this page, and learn more about Dolby Developer Services on their developer home page here.

 

December 20, 2013

Peter Heinrich

We recently released an update to the Amazon Mobile App SDK that includes improvements to GameCircle and some related components on both Android and iOS. It updates GameCircle’s dependency on the latest version of Amazon Insights, corrects a few bugs, and expands API coverage of the Unity3D plug-in. For all of these reasons, we recommend migrating to the latest SDK when convenient.

Both GameCircle and its Unity3D plug-in now take advantage of the latest version of Insights, part of Amazon’s Analytics service and the piece responsible for generating Achievements Reports. Insights SDK on iOS removed a dependency on CoreTelephony.framework, while the Android version corrected an issue specific to certain device Locales and improved support for other IAP frameworks. In addition, session timeouts now behave more consistently across platforms.

GameCircle initialization has also been optimized on both iOS and Android, and GameCircle now ensures that its Javascript components are updated when migrating to a new version of the SDK. The Unity3D plug-in supports the latest Whispersync for Games syncable type, DeveloperString, which should make it easier to store arbitrary, non-mergeable game data from your Unity3D game. The plug-in also exposes the ability to show the GameCircle sign-in page.

Check out these latest changes to the SDK, and watch this space or future updates. We’re always working to improve performance, usability, and reliability of our services for mobile apps and games.

 

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