Amazon has just "released" two games for the Kindle but the result might not have been what it was looking for. How to handle PR seems to be something that Amazon has yet to learn.
Kindle customers were pleased to discover late last week that they could download and play with the first two active content games for the Kindle. However the overall result wasn't exactly joy as there was a lot of frustration mixed in. While customers who managed to download the games seem to have been impressed - "addictive" was the most often used description - others were less than pleased.
The reason for the irritation was simply that the games didn't work on all Kindle editions and weren't available to any user outside of the US. International customers and original Kindle supporters were quite reasonably annoyed.
The problems might have been lessened by a careful listing of which machines and which countries the download might work on. A small drop down list gives a far from easy to interpret list of devices the games are suitable for and a small "Not Currently Available" label suggests that you might not be able to join in the fun. This simply reminds worldwide customers that they are second class users as there are already many books and magazines in the Kindle store that they can't buy.
The main problem users are having is in working out why? Why can't they download the games and why don't they work on their Kindles. The download problem is probably something to do with the 3G download. If Amazon is giving away millions of games and having to pay mobile phone operators for the privilege then you can see that it might just want to limit the damage. However if this is the case why not provide a download link so that user can install the games via a USB cable or WiFi if the Kindle model is suitable?
As to which models the games run on - clarity would help. Also explaining why the games don't work on earlier models would be good - is it the software or the hardware? Some users even commented that the games couldn't be loaded onto the Kindle emulators running on a range of platforms.
The Amazon Kindle Development Kit (KDK) group's email announcing that two Kindle games were available for download read:
The first Kindle active content titles are now available to Kindle customers. They are Shuffled Row and Every Word from Amazon Digital Services. We encourage you to download and try them at http://www.amazon.com/shuffledrow or http://www.amazon.com/everyword.
The email appears to have been sent only to programmers who got onto, or tried to get onto, the beta program. At about the same time this information was posted to the official Kindle Community forum:
The Amazon Kindle team says:
Amazon is now offering two word puzzle games for Kindle. They are free, so we encourage you to check them out!
Every Word and Shuffled Row are both available now for download in the Kindle Store:.
Neither of these initial announcements mentioned any restrictions on who could download, what they run on or that they might be beta test versions. No these appear to be full products and hence users are going to take what they find as an indication of how things are.
Although this isn't a huge public relations gaff - after all a lot of users were very pleased to see a free Kindle game - it wasnt' well handled and it draws attention to the fact that Amazon isn't great at PR. Until now it really hasn't needed to be. Selling books is a relatively low risk activity from a publicity point of view and even customer relations are focused on delivery and returns. As a result Amazon's PR department is small and issues tiny press releases that often say little or miss the point altogether - hence leaving others to work out the message.
However, if Kindle enters the big time then Amazon joins the ranks of Apple and the like and needs not to make PR mistakes. Amazon might not quite have put its foot in its mouth this time, but it does emphasise that they probably don't have the machinery to deal with an Apple-size PR problem and they don't really have a clue how to manage their users as opposed to their customers.
For the future Amazon plans to open an App store for the Kindle as a logical extension to its bookstore. In the future I doubt that games of the sort just released will account for much of the sales. The Kindle has a screen that was designed for reading, not responding to action graphics, and there are only so many word and logic games in the world. The current games may be fun, may even be addictive you you like word games, but they are not good examples of what could be created for the device.
What is clear is that there is a huge scope for using the Kindle in other and more serious ways and these ways probably involve heavy use of the 3G data connection. After all, what better way to keep a book up-to-date? Interactive information publishing would work well via 3G direct to the Kindle. Will Amazon find a way to allow this to happen at all, let alone world wide?
The current incident highlights that fact that Amazon seems to think locally and doesn't value the concept of the Kindle as a world device.
To end on a positive note - sort of - UK customers have recently (5th August) been able to transfer their Amazon .COM Kindle accounts to a local .co.uk implementation of the Kindle store. This allows Kindle content to be priced in the local currency and means that there are no surcharges on credit cards for currency conversion. It also means that UK users only get to see content that they can buy and download - and so won't be misled into thinking that they could download the problematic games!
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