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March 12, 2019Cami Williams
As Alexa becomes more and more integrated into our daily routine, it's important to acknowledge there are other ways voice can add power to things outside of utilities. We’re seeing this happening in the gaming industry–games such as Yes Sire or Call of Duty leverage the naturalness of voice to engage customers in a new way. Developers are exploring how voice can enhance their games, and reimagining their game as a voice-first experience.
As this facet of the gaming industry is beginning to take off, it is worthwhile to understand why. In this blog post, I will explore how I see voice as part of the future of gaming, and what you can do to jump on board.
For the past few years, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been at the forefront of technical news. “Ambient intelligence” is the idea that there is artificial intelligence integrated into things we routinely interact with. For something to be “ambient” in the technical sense, it should feel familiar, intuitive, and seamlessly integrate with ones surroundings.
We are seeing this with Alexa in obvious ways. It is routine for a customer to ask Alexa to set a timer or ask for the weather. Tasks that would normally cut into our daily routines are made simple, becoming habitual and driving ongoing customer engagement.
With games it is less obvious, largely due to the fact that the most popular games live in a virtual world. Taking into context your gaming environment, though, we can see the progression toward ambient games. For example, leaning your controller forward or side-to-side adjusting your view, or receiving vibrations from your controller when you are hit in combat.
The two are slowly becoming one. Players are syncing their smart lights to match the context of the game. Games are integrating social components to be able to talk with your teammates during gameplay. VR and AR are becoming more widely available to the masses. It is not far-fetched to assume that the future of gaming will fully immerse each of our senses in the comfort of our own homes.
Voice fits into this narrative. Imagine a future where you can directly communicate with other characters in the game unrestricted to the game mechanics, or give your own verbal commands to your fleet and they actually follow.
You can already accomplish this with the Alexa Skills Kit. Within your skill logic, you can call services and APIs that are associated to your game. If you consider a typical web game attached to an Amazon DynamoDB table, you can create a skill with account linking to your game that connected to that same database, allowing the customer to interact with the web application and Alexa skill seamlessly. This is a simple example of a powerful voice integration that you can add on in minutes.
If you are an avid gamer, chances are your experience with the game does not stop when you complete the final level, especially when playing through a game you love. You watch playthrough videos, listen to the music from the game, read about fan theories, and explore DLCs and expansion packs.
Beyond integrating Alexa into your game, you can consider voice as an extension of your game. Customers look for skills to make their lives easier. You can skills enhance the gaming experience as well. For example, create a skill that allows you to enter the game differently, or adds more onto an already great playthrough.
We see this approach in skills like Pikachu Talk or Division Network. Both are Alexa skills that are not required to play the game, but they take the game to the next level. In both games, it is clear to see they were made with a fan in mind. They allow you to experience your game in a way you haven’t before. They surprise and delight their customers. They are quick, entertaining, and exciting. Customers don’t expect these to be fully fledged games, but instead a moment that will make them feel closer to the game and its creators.
There is earning potential in the voice-game industry on both sides. From a customer’s perspective, voice games like When in Rome and Trivial Pursuit are exemplifying the future of family board game nights. Customers can enjoy games longer and dive deeper into your fandom with skills like Jeopardy! All of these games are voice first, and Alexa customers are asking for more.
Voice also presents game developers with a growing audience they can reach. The number of people purchasing devices with Alexa built-in continues to grow, as customers have bought more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, from TVs and headphones, to PCs, cars, smart home devices, and more. This means your game could already live in millions of customers’ homes with a simple utterance.
Along with reaching more customers, developers are making money and building businesses with voice games on Alexa. With in-skill purchasing, you can offer premium content to customers at critical moments of game play, such as an extra life before they lose a round or hints before they get the answer wrong, keeping gamers engaged and sitting on the edges of their seats. For example, you can offer them:
You can define what you want to sell and the price. Beyond that, the Amazon handles the voice-first purchasing flow. You can also integrate with Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills to sell physical goods to your customers.
Now is the time to build games for Alexa. To learn more, connect with the Alexa team at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), March 18-22. If you’re unable to attend GDC in person, you can join us from your home or office to watch live streams from the event. For three days we will be streaming conference recaps, live coding sessions, and best practices for building voice games. Register now to RSVP for the live stream and receive relevant updates.