The Amazon Underground application store is an innovative way to get premium applications into the hands of customers, although it is not without its own pitfalls. The Underground store works by allowing customers to use applications free of charge, which means developers lose their initial investment from players. However, developers are rewarded by the time that customers spend in their applications. This opens up the question of how, exactly, Amazon are going to track this information and what else they do with it. At the time of launch, there were serious and very real questions raised about how sustainable the Amazon Underground business model could be, but the idea attracted a number of big-name developers including Rovio, the business behind the Angry Birds franchise.
At launch, Rovio placed four of their games into the Amazon Underground store: Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Angry Birds Space and Bad Piggies. And today the Finnish game developer has reported that it has seen revenues triple during the first month, although the business has not confirmed the scale of revenues before it started using Amazon Underground. Tero Raji, Senior Vice President of Game Business at Rovio, made these comments on the Amazon Developer blog: "We included four of our popular titles in Amazon Underground at launch, aimed at reaching as many fans as possible in the Amazon ecosystem. In the first month since launch of these games, the Amazon Underground model has brought us up to three times more revenue compared to the same games' user revenue in the Amazon Appstore previously." Seeing as Rovio's games are large time sinks, this is not a surprise – and it shows how Amazon Underground can be a viable business model for developers of titles that people want to play. It points to Google that there are other ways to reward and encourage developers to publish applications other than advertisements, in-game purchases, or flat initial charges.
We are not likely to see a significant change anytime soon, but Google are already working on new technologies that could change how we, as customers, use and pay for third party applications. We have already seen how Google has the technology to stream applications to our devices over an Internet connection. Could we see this combined with a payment model for the developer, or perhaps for the customer, to allow payment of the device in this way? This is certainly an interesting concept and one that, perhaps, Google is keen to explore in the coming months.