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October 18, 2016

Becky Young

With more and more developers worldwide launching freemium titles, we embarked on a study to see who is doing this effectively, and what they are doing that the rest of us aren’t.

Over the past year, we have been sharing the in-app purchasing (IAP) lessons we observed in our study of the top 50 game developers. Our top five lessons are now available as an eBook: In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Developers.

The eBook takes a look at data gathered in a 30-day study. It breaks down retention rates, daily time spent playing games, and average daily revenue. It then looks at the top 50 games in the study to uncover the similarities that lead to their success. Its purpose is to provide a knowledge template for developers that are looking to monetize their games using IAP.

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October 14, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

Take me to your leader…board!

Now that we have GameCircle set up and Whispersync working, it’s time to bring out the competitive instincts of our players with leaderboards. Leaderboards are a staple in the gaming landscape and allow players to compare their scores with all the other people who have played the game today, this week, or ever. Depending on the nature of your game, you can have multiple leaderboards. Retroids has an overall leaderboard, as well as separate leaderboards for each type of control—touch, game controller or Amazon Fire TV remote control—to allow players to compare themselves against people who play the way they do. For another type of game, you might have just a single, overall leaderboard or leaderboards based on level, character class, or whatever makes sense.

Figure 1 - List of leaderboards in Retroids and the Top Scores leaderboard

Setting up leaderboards

Unlike Whispersync, you need to do a little configuration on the Amazon Developer Portal before you can use them. Never fear, the set up work is very easy, but first you need to create your title in the developer portal. You don’t need to publish it or even upload an APK to continue on to the rest of the set up steps. Refer back to the earlier post in this series to set up GameCircle if you haven’t already done that.

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October 13, 2016

Mike Hines

A free chocolate. Extra storage. A rare gem. A badge of loyalty. A new character or theme.

We can all agree: everyone loves an unexpected gift. And it doesn’t matter how big or small the gift is, it makes you feel good.

Whether it’s a bonus storefront item or a character upgrade, offering a free gift is a smart, surprise-and-delight monetization tactic that we see developers use to create “happiness in the moment,” as well as to strengthen a game’s loyal fan-base and bottom line over time.

Gifting: a closer look

You want your users to feel good, right?

Of course you do. But you also need to meet your game’s revenue goals by having players visit and buy your in-app-purchase (IAP) items.

Here are three ideas on how to engage users with nice gifts and transform that gift into meaningful revenue down the road:

  1. Increase Player Retention: Sending a small “gift” to your game’s users on a random basis can be a great way to encourage players to return frequently—while adding an exciting element of surprise. This also plays into what social psychologists call the law of reciprocity. Giving an unexpected gift encourages players to respond to your positive action with another positive action. It’s nice to be nice!
  2. Encourage Future IAP Purchases: When a new player finishes their first session of your game, give them a free IAP item as thanks for having tried your game. Many users will recognize the kind gesture and will return to the game later to try the new items, and may be even more likely to check out your IAP store upon their return. Note: Do NOT make this gift contingent upon their visiting your store or buying something first. Experienced players can be cynical when it comes to the “the first one is free” method of marketing IAP items. Make it a genuine, no-strings-attached gift for the best response.
  3. Encourage Re-Engagement: If you want to remind inactive users that your game still exists, consider creating incentives—like extra lives for characters or eye-appealing cupcake toppings—for your customers to encourage them to re-connect with your game. Doing this can remind them why they liked your game in the first place, and can bring them back to re-engage.  

Turning a free app into meaningful revenue

Developers who use the freemium model must first focus on building an innovative, engaging game, and then also create high-value IAP content that will delight players. Offering special, unique gifts to introduce players to the value you’ve added in your IAP content is one smart way to showcase that value to potential customers. It could even encourage players to make future purchases and engage for longer, generating meaningful revenue for your game.

The Amazon Appstore is designed to make it easy to manage your IAP catalog, and we have enhanced our In-App Purchasing API to make it easier (and faster) than ever for you to integrate Amazon IAP into your game.

To learn about why IAP should not be an after-thought in game development, but rather a key factor in your design requirements, check out our recent eBook: In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”. The eBook highlights the top five actionable insights we uncovered in our recent study focused on the top 50 freemium games in the Amazon Appstore.



October 11, 2016

Greg Bulmash

Login with Amazon (LwA) allows your customers to log in to your website or app using their Amazon credentials. LwA uses the OAuth 2.0 protocol making integration easy, and allows you to provide a more personalized user experience such as greeting visitors by name or displaying customized offers based on zip codes.

Depending on the permissions you request as part of this authentication (and what the user approves), LwA returns information you can use to connect to different Amazon APIs and obtain information about the user, perform tasks on their behalf, and/or incorporate Amazon services into your interactions with them.

The JavaScript SDK for the web use case

When a user opts to use Login with Amazon to log into your site, you have to send them to an Amazon controlled page where they enter their email and password. This provides assurance to the user that you are not peeking at their password. When a user completes a login and approves the permissions you requested, the main browser window is redirected to a URL of your designation with information embedded in the URL.

There is one use case, involving the JavaScript SDK for the web and an Implicit Grant (where the "response_type" is "token"), that returns an access token with a URL fragment (#x=y) rather than a query string (?x=y). Why does this happen?

[Read More]

October 07, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

So far in our Building Retroids series we’ve looked at detecting and handling controllers and remotes for your Amazon Fire TV game, implementing in-app purchasing to drive revenue, and how to leverage social features such as leaderboards and achievements with GameCircle. Today we are going to look at that how to implement some basic Whispersync for Games features to make your GameMaker: Studio game more convenient and fun for your players.

To the cloud!

Whispersync allows you to easily store information in the cloud—such as player progress and settings. This is convenient for your game customers who play on multiple devices or who, for whatever reason, might uninstall your game and then install it again later.

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October 06, 2016

Peter Heinrich

We’ve all heard stories of mobile games that explode in popularity, only to become irrelevant and obscure months later. The key to ensuring your mobile game doesn’t become just another a “flash in the pan”, you have to think about longevity. How can you build a game that keeps people coming back for more?

A world of shrinking attention spans

Let’s face it: if your game gets stale and boring, users will leave—and fast.

It’s not enough to release a product, then sit back and watch what happens. Instead, you need frequent content updates to keep players engaged and coming back.

Smart developers today understand that the mobile games that ultimately succeed are those that continue to grow and evolve in meaningful ways—over time—with fresh content, new features, and exciting game play experiences. This can be delivered to users in the form of downloadable content, such as new game levels, or user-created content (think Minecraft worlds and Trivia Crack tidbits).

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October 03, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

In the previous post in our series we walked through how to implement in-app purchases in your game using GameMaker: Studio. So now that you have an IAP catalog full of great items and ready to generate revenue, we have to make sure your users stay engaged—and spending. We’ve seen that incorporating social elements into your game is a great way to boost engagement and help drive revenue.

Make your game social with GameCircle

Players today expect social features like friends, leaderboards and achievements. They also expect to be able to play your game on all of their devices without losing their progress and settings. Amazon GameCircle offers several features to improve engagement and retention. Leaderboards allow players to compare scores with their friends (and maybe their enemies) to capture the coveted top score status. Achievements provide mileposts for players to help pull them through the experience and keep them engaged and exploring the game. Finally, Whispersync for Games provides a way to store game progress and settings in the cloud so they automatically sync to every device on which your customers play your game. GameCircle is supported on Amazon Appstore titles running on Amazon devices and other Android devices.

[Read More]

September 30, 2016

Mike Hines



According to Newzoo’s Mobile Games Market Landscape report, there are approximately 49.3 million mobile gamers who can be classified as Big Spenders, spending more than $25 per month on or in mobile games.

As a developer, you no doubt aim to attract these Big Spenders to your game, as well as keep them engaged—and spending. In our new eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”, we share engagement and retention strategies we have learned from the top 50 revenue-grossing freemium games in the Amazon Appstore. We found that when compared to a sample set of other freemium games, the top 50 generated on average 24 percent more average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) per day. Part of their success came from catering to those potential Big Spenders.

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September 26, 2016

Peter Heinrich

Do you ever wonder why some apps get tens of thousands of downloads in the first month and others get less than 1,000, or maybe even none? It’s not all about the marketing budget; it turns out that the app listing plays an important role. In reality, the majority of app downloads are not paid or incentivized downloads, but instead driven by how appealling app store listings are to potential new customers.

The Amazon Appstore has seen its share of app detail pages and we have a few ideas on what makes a detail page successful—leading to download and purchase—and why some pages fall short. In our upcoming webinar, Optimize Your Appstore Presence to Maximize Downloads,  we’ll share guidelines for getting the most from your app store presence, and how to avoid common mistakes that are potentially costing you revenue.

You don’t need to spend money to generate income from your app listing, but you do need to follow the best practices that can lead to increased downloads.

Join me, Peter Heinrich, on October 3rd to learn how to optimize your Amazon Appstore presence in order to maximize downloads. At the end of this webinar you will learn:

  • Best practices for creating an optimized app detail page.
  • Guidelines that are often overlooked.
  • How to create a promotional video for your game.

Reserve your spot today!

Register for 7:00am PDT (3:00pm BST) on Monday, October 3, 2016

Register for 1:00pm PDT (9:00pm BST) on Monday, October 3, 2016


September 23, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

Most mobile games today use some form of in-app purchasing (IAP) as part of their monetization strategy. Using Amazon IAP in GameMaker: Studio is not particularly difficult – once you know how to do it. But getting to that stage takes some careful study and experimentation. Hopefully, I can help short cut that process for you as I describe how I built it for Retroids.

Understanding in-app purchase basics

By now, I’m sure most of us are very familiar with IAP. There are three types of IAP items found in games—consumables, entitlements and subscriptions—with consumables and entitlements being far more common, so that is what we’ll cover here.

Consumable IAP items are things that are used, or consumed, during gameplay. Gold, gems, health, potions, etc. You might by a “Bag of 500 coins” and then use those coins to outfit your character, buy gas for a race car, etc.

Entitlement IAP items are things that are “unlocked” and continue to be available to the player forever after that point. Level packs or special items like a gun, sword or personalization items like a costume or theme pack are common entitlements.

One of the great things about IAP is that your game doesn’t have to deal with collecting the user payment information, authorizing and processing the payment, and all the other aspects of securely managing credit card information on your own. As you can imagine, users may be reluctant to enter their payment information separately in every game they are playing. You can rely on the Amazon Appstore to handle all those backend details and to provide a single place that customers already trust with their payment information.

On Amazon Appstore, as with other app stores, there are parts of the IAP that you configure on the server and parts that you code in the game. Each IAP item is referred to as a SKU (stock keeping unit, which is a legacy retail term for “an individual type of thing you are selling”). This includes the name of the SKU, the price and a few other pieces of metadata. The price that is configured in the Appstore is what the customer will be charged. Your game can’t change that at run time, but you can change it whenever you want—without requiring an app update—on the server.

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September 16, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

Now that we have game controllers handled, let’s take a closer look at how to set up your Amazon Fire TV game for use with the Fire TV remote.

Using the Fire TV remote for game input

The Fire TV remote control is available with and without the microphone and voice search button, but since that is reserved for the system both remotes expose the same keys for use by apps.

D-pad and d-pad center button

The circular d-pad on the remote control is accessed in the same way as the game controller d-pad.

                 // move up

The select button in the center of the d-pad sends the vk_space keycode.

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September 12, 2016

Mario Viviani

Part 3: Browsing the Content of a Leanback-Enabled Android App

In the previous episode of this series we discussed the anatomy of a Leanback-enabled Android App for Amazon Fire TV, discovering what its main components are and how they are tightly tied to the Media Streaming Interaction Model.

We’ll now take a close look into the first and most basic component of an Android App for Amazon Fire TV: the BrowseFragment.

The BrowseFragment

After we launch our freshly created TV Android App, built using the Android Studio App Wizard, we will encounter an interface that will look very similar to this:

[Read More]

September 09, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

Last week we covered some of the missing documentation in GameMaker with respect to Amazon Fire TV, detailing what you need to know about basic controller detection. This week, as we continue on my building Retroids journey, we will take a closer look at handling controllers.

A well behaved game should handle controllers coming and going during play. This covers cases where a controller loses connectivity due to range or interference, or if the batteries in the controller die while playing.

To accomplish this, the above code needs to be present in the actual game play rooms as well. This could be implemented in a single object that is used in all rooms of the game.

[Read More]

September 02, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

Last week I shared my decision—in the name of more fun games for the world— to make good use of my commute time and build a Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick game using GameMaker: Studio.

The GameMaker documentation gives a general overview of supporting game controllers. Finding details on how game controller support works with Amazon Fire TV proved to be a little more difficult. In the next few posts in the series I will provide the missing information, focusing on:

  • Basic Controller Detection
  • Handling Controllers and Controls
  • Using the Amazon Fire TV Remote and Controller Selection

Let’s dive into basic controller detection.

Handling the game controller and remote control on Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick

Using YoYo Games GameMaker: Studio to build PC games that use the keyboard or even a USB game controller is pretty easy and many developers choose to first get their game up and running on their PC. This offers the convenience of easy debugging and very fast edit-build-test cycles. When you want to move to a mobile device or a platform like Amazon Fire TV, however, you are going to have to invest some time to build in proper support for game controller detection.

[Read More]

August 26, 2016

Jon Pulsipher

It all started with a bus ride.

Not long ago, I was looking for a project to occupy my time on my bus commute to Seattle. I have experience with a variety of game engines and writing code doesn’t frighten me, but I wanted to use a new tool and get the entire learning experience. Enter YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio.

Jesse Freeman previously posted an overview of some of the frameworks available to make your game development for Amazon devices a lot easier. As many of you already know, game frameworks, also known as “engines”, do various amounts of the technical heavy lifting so you can focus on designing fun and engaging experiences for your players. After all, why should each of us write our own code to display and animate sprites, play sounds or handle the touch screen?

One of the engines Jesse covered was GameMaker: Studio. You can download it for free to check it out, as well as the 60-day trial of the Amazon Fire module to target your games for Amazon Fire tablets and Amazon Fire TV devices. GameMaker: Studio is fully cross-platform and other available modules allow you to target iOS, Linux and all game consoles.

If you are completely new to GameMaker, don’t fret! Shaun Spalding, YoYo Games’ Community Manager, has a great series of tutorials to get you going. That’s exactly where I started. You can get an idea what is possible (which is a lot!) by checking out the showcase of games built with GameMaker. I’ll save you the click and just tell you, “Yes, you can build awesome games with GameMaker!” Fast, beautiful games full of juicy particle-spewing, camera-shaking excitement that easily stand next to any other game. This is NOT some pared down prototyping tool or a drag-and-drop toy for kids. 

Of course, to do any of that, you have to have an idea and you need to be prepared to write some code. I have a soft spot for TV gaming, so my plan started with building an arcade-style space-shooter for Amazon Fire TV that could be played with a Fire TV game controller – mostly because that’s what I have at home and this began as just a side project for myself.

As I thought about it more, I realized that the world deserves more fun games, and darn it, they deserve MY fun game. To allow as many customers as possible to experience the excitement of my game, it would really be great if it was also playable on Fire TV Stick…with only the remote control. And of course it needed GameCircle achievements and leaderboards. To top it all off, I thought, “Hey, why not support playing on a touch screen too.”

Now I really had a challenge worthy of my long commute.

Over the next few parts, I’ll get into the hard-won details of how I built the remote and controller support, as well as GameCircle features in GameMaker: Studio, complete with sample code you can use in your own projects.

Don't miss the rest of the Building Retroids with GameMaker blog series!

Part 2: Basic Controller Detection

Part 3: Handling Controllers

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