Amazon launches new game studio
In creating a new division called Amazon Game Studios, the Seattle-based Internet retailer goes head to head with Zynga
Seattle Times business reporter
Has Amazon.com just set off a rivalry with social-gaming leader Zynga?
The Seattle-based company released its first social game Monday on Facebook and announced the creation of a new team called Amazon Game Studios.
Amazon gave few details about the new division except that it's focused on developing "innovative, fun and well-crafted games," a sign that more titles are on the way. It also noted that the team is hiring.
That would seem to put the Internet retailer head to head with Zynga, the undisputed leader of social games for Facebook, but the move prompted more questions than answers from some analysts Monday.
"Not many people make tons of money on Facebook games," said Michael Pachter, who follows Facebook and Zynga for Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. "If it's a modest investment just to see if they can do it, that's one thing. If it's a massive investment, there should be a strategy behind it, and I don't know what that is."
While Amazon long has sold video games, it now appears serious about making them.
Amazon, which also has its own movie studio, likely is entering the social-gaming market to complement its Kindle Fire tablet computer and a new smartphone it reportedly is working on, said P.J. McNealy, a media consultant at Digital World Research.
"A multiplatform strategy of phone, tablet and laptop requires you to have some original content. Being an aggregator only gets you so far," he said.
"Amazon already controls the shopping experience on PCs and tablets, and they want to control it on mobile," he added. "Having games is a nice bonus."
Amazon's first release, "Living Classics," is a "free-to-play" game featuring a family of foxes that have wandered into animated illustrations from such popular books as "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz."
Players are invited to explore "beautifully illustrated scenes," spot moving objects, visit friends, share rewards and "reunite fox families."
Amazon enters a social-gaming market that's believed to offer high growth potential — and corresponding risk.
San Francisco-based Zynga, which has a studio and engineering office in Seattle's Pioneer Square, recently posted second-quarter profits and sales below Wall Street expectations, sending its stock down the most since its December initial public offering.
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