Why Amazon Fire is Awesome for Indie Developers

By Benjamin Roussey on May 3, 2014

Despite an industry-wide increase in video game downloads, indie developers are struggling to keep up with big-name publishers such as Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts. They have the money and network that allows them to invest millions of dollars into a game’s development, market to a wide array of audiences, and afford the cost of mass-producing a game on a disk. But with the release of Amazon’s Fire TV, big-name publishers may end up losing their advantage in this arena.

A Smaller Team Needed

Indie developers have enjoyed the most success on mobile platforms that you know as iOS and Android. Because of technological constraints, mobile games usually don’t require as much development as a console game, which means that a small team can build an entire game experience – something that is perfect for indie developers.

Flappy Bird, which became one of the highest selling mobile games of 2013, was created by just one person. Instead of having to focus on jaw dropping graphics, indie developers are able to put their time and effort into game mechanics when building a game for a mobile platform.

Clear Potential

Now introduce the Fire TV, which isn’t a phone, but instead a lower-cost alternative to a video game console. It has the potential to capture an audience that is larger than an average game console.

Fire TV won’t be the first Android-based, low-cost set-top box isn’t the first on the market. Ouya was a superstar on Kickstarter.com when it was first announced, raising nearly $10 million dollars. But after its release, sales have been lackluster and it has already been marked as a failure by the industry.

But Fire TV has one big advantage over Ouya: it is being marketed as a video streaming device, not a game console. Gamers want the big-name consoles or a PC when they play their games. If they are going to play games on a device that runs Android, they would just use their phone. Plus it makes more sense for indie developers to make a game optimized for a phone instead of the Ouya, because more people have Android-based phones than they do an Ouya.

Larger Market Share

Where the Ouya failed, Fire TV will succeed. Many more people will be compelled to purchase the Fire TV because of its high-quality video streaming functionality and the Amazon name. It will reach a wider audience, who indie developers will then be able to tap. The demographic of people buying the Fire TV would be described as “casual gamers,” who tend to gravitate towards indie games like Flappy Bird.

Amazon is Making Moves

Furthermore, those indie developers who already make games for android devices will have no problem figuring out how to optimize their games for Fire TV. In fact, a lot of Fire TV’s development tools mimic their Fire OS counterparts, which means that many developers won’t have to change a thing when they are building games. And just three weeks ago, Amazon released new tools that allow developers to optimize all of their games for Fire TV and the Fire game controller.

Fire TV also presents new opportunities for indie developers. The Amazon device supports second screen experiences using something called DIAL, which allows users to open and control apps on their television right from their Android-based tablet or phone. By extending games to two screens, developers can create games that would compete with some of Nintendo’s multilayer masterpieces on the Wii U.

Amazon is literally opening up a new platform for indie developers to increase their reach in the living room. It is only a matter of time before big-name publishers begin sweating.