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2 Dec 2013

Will Amazon Prime Air Benefit Indie Developers?

By now, many of you have probably learned about Amazon’s latest venture: shipping via drones. It was unveiled last night on an episode of 60 Minutes (a Sunday night news program for those outside of the U.S.), and the concept is revolutionary. Essentially changing the way consumers think about shipping, ‘Amazon Prime Air’ can essentially ship anything five pounds to any destination within a 10-mile radius in 30 minutes or less. Take a look at the video below to get a better understanding for how Amazon Prime Air will theoretically work.

The true question is how is this going to affect the way businesses conduct their day-to-day business, which for indie devs begs the question: how can this benefit my business?

Thus, consider this Monday post as a set of contemplative ideas regarding how Amazon Prime Air could potentially change the way you conduct business as an indie developer. It’s a plan that, in a few years, could potentially be laughable, but bear in mind we currently know very little about the service. Take this plan with a grain of salt, but do become excited about the prospect of how this could affect the way you deliver games to your customers.


Will shipping be faster than bandwidth speeds?

It’s an interesting thought. Currently, some games take forever to download and install via Steam or another platform. Case in point: this weekend I bought some AAA games that were on sale on Steam, and the download and installation times were atrocious. It took nearly 12-hours for one game and about six for another. As the file sizes of indie games increase, so too could the download and installation times of games continue to increase as well.

This could potentially keep some customers from making spontaneous purchases. When customers want to purchase a game, it’s usually because they want to play the game in the moment versus waiting hours to play it. Yet with Amazon Prime Air? For customers living within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon shipping center, they can have their goods delivered to them within minutes.

So yes, to an extent, shipping could be faster than bandwidth speeds for many living within the United States. Really, it’s a testament to how poor the United States’ bandwidth actually is, but that’s another argument for another day. At any rate, how could Amazon Prime Air benefit the selling of your indie game for those living in close radius to an Amazon shipping center?


Ship the game physically, allow players to experience your game faster than ever

By using the shipping speeds of Amazon Prime Air, I can certainly see the possibilities for shipping physical copies of a game so players can enjoy them without having to wait for their game to download and install. This could be done by shipping a device such as a small flash drive or memory card that can be inserted into the individual’s PC, the game could be installed via the files on the flash drive, and then authenticated via a platform such as Steam. This would bypass the long wait times for large games, allowing the player to essentially play a game within one hour versus having to wait several.


That’s a lot of money for physical media though, right?

Yes and no. I don’t have to tell you that you could raise the price of your indie game just a little bit to make up for the cost of flash drives, memory cards, etc. Yet, physical media isn’t that expensive anymore, but if you really wanted to counteract the cost, why not have the individual ship the physical media back to you via Amazon Air Prime so you can use the devices again?

Essentially, you could include the cost of returning the physical media in the price of the game, yet would that be more expensive than the actual cost of a flash drive, memory card, etc.? Especially by the time Amazon Air Prime rolls around (which, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has stated will not be until 2015 ‘at the very earliest’)? We don’t know the answer to that yet.


Will the shipping costs be expensive?

Again, there is no word on how expensive it will be to ship items via Amazon Air Prime. However, one thing is certain: Amazon is likely to use its own shipping service to deliver goods. That means the inflated shipping costs of UPS, Fed Ex, and so on will not be an issue, so likely, it will not be very costly to ship via Amazon’s new drone service. The true question is this: will it be cost effective to ship a physical copy of your indie game? You will probably have to increase the cost of your indie game by at least a small sum to ship the game via Amazon Prime Air, but will customers be willing to pay the price? It depends on how much you have to increase it. An increase of a dollar or two would be ideal, but anything more than that? The increase in price may outweigh the desire to play your game more quickly.

Amazon Prime Air has incredible potential to help indie developers in ways they never imagined. Even in the smallest of ways, such as if your indie game requires a second controller on a console and a customer wants to purchase it and play it with their friends. With an order to Amazon Prime Air, they could have a second controller at their home within minutes, making them feel more inclined to buy the game since they can have a controller delivered within 30-minutes without leaving the home. It’s little things like this that could have a big impact on the industry we love.

What do you think? Do you think Amazon Prime Air could change the way you conduct business as an indie developer? Let us know in the comments below!

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