Amazon has followed hot on the heels of rivals Microsoft and Google by announcing the release of a coding suite that will enable game developers to more easily host online tournaments and competitions. Their software suite is intended to be initially free until May 1st, and then companies using the platform will be charged a third of a penny each time a player uses the service. The theory is that GameOn will considerably increase the retention rate of players who would otherwise quickly lose interest in games lacking in a competitive edge. So is this a good deal for the game development companies?

Despite the complaints of some older gamers, there’s no mistaking the trend that gaming is becoming ever more online, multiplayer and competitive. The rise of E-sports over just a few years emerging from being a small niche community to now a multimillion-dollar global industry is a testimony to this. With E-sports now being broadcast on traditional sports networks, the sky is the limit for how far this kind of online gaming can go – and games companies that ignore this fact are likely not going to be around for long.

Amazon’s GameOn makes it far easier for games companies not just to host tournaments but also to promote their games and advertise further purchasable in-play features. While far from offering the mega money prizes on offer with professional video gaming, players can win additional/special bonuses within their game and/or Amazon specific products (for example Echo speakers). Considering that the overwhelming majority of gamers just play for ‘kicks’, the prospect of actually winning a tangible prize is hoped to be an incentive to attract players to shift to the GameOn platform.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be the platform used to host the GameOn service, and the intention is clearly to help give Amazon’s slightly fledgling app suite a boost in momentum. The advantage for game developers – and this is crucial to the viability of the project – is that AWS is very ‘transfer friendly’ and straightforward to integrate within existing game apps. Instead of just hosting a handful of newer releases, there is little in theory to prevent game companies making available their entire game catalog on the GameOn service – providing (again in theory) a potentially enormous library of games.

Another key consideration is that Amazon has clearly been performing due diligence by testing the online gaming waters before entering the market. Since 2016 they have successfully hosted special events featuring ever-popular online games Hearthstone and Vainglory, with it clear that linking gaming success to a player’s Amazon account to claim prizes being a successful pairing.

As mentioned above the prizes available are gaming specific and to date exclusively Amazon’s proprietary brands, but should the GameOn system become as popular as optimistic projections suggest, it is reasonable to expect more freedom being permitted when it comes to prize selection. It is worth noting that Amazon has everything to gain with their GameOn platform. The prizes have to be purchased (including shipping!) by the game company.

So how likely is it that Amazon’s GameOn is going to prove a breakthrough success ahead of Google/Ubisoft and Microsoft’s ambitious plans? Will it be easy to lure players away from their Free Play UK slots and take up a wholly new tournament and prize format? It is too early to say for certain but there’s been no shortage of high profile development companies that have been quick to seize the opportunity so far. With the likes of Game Insights, Umbrella Games, Mindstorm and Avix among dozens of others there’s a good chance that Amazon may be onto a real winner here.