Amazon Underground Developer Program To Close
Written by Lucy Black   
Friday, 28 April 2017

Amazon has announced that it will stop accepting new Android apps for the Underground Actually Free program on May 31st, 2017. Existing apps, will still be available for customers to download until 2019 and will continue to generate royalties for developers for a 6-month wind-down period after that.


Amazon Underground was introduced in August 2015 as an additional way for developers to monetize apps they had already published, either as a paid app or with in-app purchasing on Google Play, Apple iTunes or Microsoft's App Store. The Android apps published on Amazon had to be entirely free there, including benefits that would require in-app purchases elsewhere, to provide customers with an incentive for using the Amazon Fire Android tablet or installing the (free but exclusive to Amazon) Underground App, essentially a shopping app, on their existing Android tablets and becoming loyal Amazon customers. 


The pitch to customers was, and is: 

Amazon Underground has a great selection of premium apps and games for free and all in-app purchases are free too. Imagine if you had unlimited lives, levels, upgrades—everything. Good news, you do with Amazon Underground. Amazon Underground apps and games are 100% free. There’s no more waiting for more lives or time, no more getting friends to sponsor your next level, and no more downloading a game only to have to pay for extras. All the lives, levels, time and “extras” you want are free. Just fun, continuous play. 

Devs were, and currently still are, paid according to the time customers use their apps:  $0.002 (a fifth of a cent) for every minute.

Amazon was initially very upbeat about its success and in November 2015 we reported on the success of Underground that that tripled the selection of free apps and games in three months, attracting  popular titles including Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Goat Simulator, Frozen Free Fall, and Looney Tunes Dash! The companies behind these games also provided quotes to reflect their satisfaction with the scheme.



The total number of Actually Free apps has now risen to almost 5,000 and customers can benefit to the tune of $20,000 by choosing Amazon over other app stores. But this is the end of the line. While devs can maintain their existing Underground Apps until 2019, no new ones will be published after May 31st, 2017.

The announcement from Becky Young on the Amazon Appstore blog reads:

While we will continue to expand the Amazon Appstore experience, we have decided to discontinue the Underground Actually Free program. All support for the program will end in 2019. Until then, current Fire tablet customers can continue to enjoy previously installed Underground apps and access the Underground Actually Free store. Fire tablet access to the Underground store will not extend beyond currently supported devices. Access to the Underground Actually Free store through Amazon’s Appstore for Android devices will end in summer 2017. Android customers will continue to have access to the Amazon Underground app to shop for physical goods and access Prime Video content and can enjoy previously installed Underground Actually Free apps. 




Amazon has given no explicit explanation of its decision to curtail this program less than two years after its introduction but the announcement hints that the Underground program had served its purpose of attracting customers, but that physical goods and Amazon Coins now fit better with Amazon Appstores's sales model than expanding giveaway content of possible reducing quality:

The Amazon Appstore increased selection to offer more than 800,000 apps and games while expanding our footprint across a growing portfolio of Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Android devices as well as 236 countries and territories worldwide. In addition to expanding the reach of Appstore, we created new monetization opportunities for developers. Developers can now earn revenue outside their game by converting game characters and imagery into branded t-shirts via Merch by Amazon. And with Amazon Coins, Appstore customers can save on every game in the Amazon Appstore. Customers can buy Amazon Coins at a discount, while developers continue to get their full 70 percent revenue share.

Is this going to upset the Amazon Developer community? From comments on the forums, revenues from the Underground royalty per minute model were disappointing so there will probably be little reaction.

More Information

Announcement: Amazon Underground Actually Free Program

Related Articles

Amazon Underground A New Way To Make Money From Apps

Amazon Reports Underground Success


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 29 October 2017 )