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Going Underground: Why Amazon’s Fire TV needs cloud gaming

Amazon Underground has been live for just over three months now, giving punters free games and liberating everyone from the need for in-app purchases, thanks to an innovate payment model. But it needs to be on Fire TV.  

While it’s great that you can get games like Goat Simulator and more recently, old PC favourites like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on phones and tablets, you can’t currently access Amazon Underground on any of Amazon’s Fire TV devices.

We caught up with Aaron Rubenson, director of Amazon Appstore, to ask if and when this situation may change. 

Rubenson said: “I can’t talk about the future, unfortunately. Fire TV is a great product, it’s doing well and developers are excited about it. It’s a new way to reach customers. 

“So we’re thinking a lot about what we do with that product but I can’t make any specific announcements about Underground on there.”

Read our Amazon Fire TV (2015 edition) and Fire TV Stick reviewsWe asked when Amazon might bring cloud gaming to the Fire ecosystem, which would potentially let you play something like Grand Theft Auto on your phone and carry on where you left off on Fire TV.

Again, Rubenson wouldn’t be drawn on specifics, but said that developers are ‘enthused’ about the potential. 

“Customers now expect things to be on a cloud platform. You’re moving from your phone to your tablet and the TV is just another screen. It offers a more relaxed environment, a bigger experience and so on.” 

As well as being convenient, cloud gaming would also prevent customers from having to potentially pay for something you otherwise wouldn’t. Knights for example, is free to download from Amazon Underground, but if you want to play it on Fire TV, that’ll set you back £6.46. While that’s clearly not a massive amount of money, that’s besides the point. When you’ve got the option to get the same thing for free, any price is going to look exorbitant by comparison. 

Rubenson added the price points represent something of a psychological barrier to mobile gamers, who overwhelmingly opt for freemium titles.  

“The in-app purchases model is sometimes frustrating. You get started for free, just when things get good you hit the paywall, and to have the richest experience you have to stop, interrupt your gameplay, you have to spend money… even though [customers] understand the model they’re not thrilled with that. 

“Generally, what we hear from developers is that it’s around two to three per cent of customers that actually spend money. As a result, the majority of Android developers in particular are not making enough money to be viable, as businesses.” 

Since Amazon threw open the doors to its Underground the number of titles available has tripled; there’s now over 15,000 titles available to download. Rubenson couldn’t tell us which developers are the biggest winners but mentioned that Angry Birds maker Rovio has noted an uptick in income, which, given the reach of the franchise perhaps isn’t surprising. 

By Amazon’s logic, not only would bringing Underground to Fire TV see more gamers piling in, in turn making more money for studios, it would give the platform an edge in the emerging mini console space. 

The new Apple TV is being sold partially on the strength of gaming credentials and support for things like Guitar Hero and Disney Infinity peripherals. GeForce Experience means you can play fully fledged current gen PC games via Nvidia’s Shield TV

Amazon’s sold millions of Fire tablets and this Black Friday, sales figures for Fire TV devices were up more than six times than a year ago. It’s well positioned to add cloud gaming to the mix. 
 
In the meantime, folks who want to play Fire TV games on their TV will have to either stick to titles that are already free or cough up. 

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