August 8, 2012, 10:40 AM

Amazon launches its own social gaming group

First up from Amazon Game Studios is a free game for Facebook users.

Lead Photo

Amazon.com Inc. this week launched Amazon Game Studios, a group charged with creating social games. Its first game, called Living Classics, costs nothing to play and is available only as an app on the Facebook social network.

“We know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games, and thanks to Amazon’s know-how, we believe we can deliver a great, accessible gaming experience that gamers and our customers can play any time,” reads a message posted to Games.Amazon.com, the home of Amazon Game Studios.

The first game is a so-called moving object game, where players click on images as they animate. The Living Classics game incorporates characters from such classic books as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz.” To play, Facebook users have to permit the app to collect such marketing information as the players’ e-mail. As consumers play, the game encourages them to share their game activities with their friends on the social network and to invite them to play, too.

“The reasons for Amazon to make its own game is probably due to Amazon wanting to have a more direct presence on Facebook, and better understand what makes that platform tick,” says Robert W. Baird & Co. investment analyst Colin Sebastian. He adds that Amazon has been recruiting employees for various game-related initiatives for several years.

Amazon.com has more than 8.3 million fans on Facebook. It ranks second for effective use of social media among top e-retailers, according to a recent analysis by social media consulting firm W2O Group. But Paul Dyer, head of corporate development for W2O, says that Amazon got that rank largely by the largesse of its customers, who Like the brand on Facebook to see the latest deals, and not because Amazon is doing anything special there. "Amazon is basically surviving on its laurels. They have a ton of people coming to their web site and they never had to figure out social media,” Dyer said earlier this year.

Sebastian says publishing its own games is one way for Amazon to avoid becoming dependent on other game developers at a time when the video game market is growing. “From a very high level, Amazon continues to build out a large-scale digital media platform, and they can leverage not only a strong technology backbone, but also e-commerce expertise  [for] in-game transactions to help drive traction in the lucrative video game market,” he says.

Amazon.com is No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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