Amazon launches new Game Studio
Amazon is getting into the game-making game. The Seattle-based
company announced its first major social-game title, "Living Classics,"
The free Facebook game is
the first from its Amazon Game Studios, a new department at the
e-commerce giant that was also unveiled Monday.
"Amazon Game Studios is
exactly what it sounds like: a new team at Amazon that's focused on
creating innovative, fun and well-crafted games," said the company in a
blog post on the new games.amazon.com site. The department is currently hiring, but few other details are given.
The social-gaming field
is still dominated by Zynga, maker of addictive games such as Farmville
and Words With Friends and their various spin-offs. But the company has
been struggling since going public in December; Zynga's stock closed at
$2.94 a share on Monday.
Yet another social game
isn't much of a threat to Zynga, but Amazon has the firepower necessary
to become a legitimate competitor, thanks to its large network of
customers with active accounts. Amazon can also target any games it does
build to users of its popular Kindle tablets.
Amazon isn't revealing
much about its motivation for entering the game market, saying only, "We
know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games -- including
free-to-play social 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."
The first game is a simple literature-themed puzzle game.
Players are presented
with busy illustrations of scenes loosely based on classic books. To get
points called cash and coins, they must quickly spot and click moving
objects on the screen. Levels include takes on "Alice in Wonderland,"
"Wizard of Oz," "King Arthur" and more generic themes such as pirates
and haunted houses. ("Classics" could mean more than just books -- one
of the illustrations on the official Living Classics Facebook fan page
show two X-Files type characters.)
Since this is a Facebook
game, there are plenty of opportunities to play the game with friends.
And since games are big business, there are options to spend real money
on in-app purchases.
Players can stock up on
game currency -- a dollar buys you five units of "cash" currency, and
$100 gets you 660. However the feature doesn't appear to be working at
RIM's fate hangs on BlackBerry 10
Siri may have her critics, but Apple's talkative virtual assistant is definitely useful for some functions, like checking the weather and texting.
Nuance, which works with Apple on voice control, now plans to take Siri-like abilities to more apps.
The product is called
Nina, and it'll let businesses build voice capabilities right into their
apps -- iOS or Android -- via a software development kit (SDK). Nuance
says it's the first voice assistant with an SDK (Siri still doesn't have
one), and Nina obviously has access to all of Nuance's data on the
industries that use its tech: banks, airlines, hotels, retailers and
Nina is aimed at the
enterprise, essentially taking the automated call center functions you
might encounter when calling an 800 number, and putting it into an app.
natural-language understanding, and it provides a way for a developer to
add that into an app," says Robert Weideman, executive vice president
of Nuance's enterprise division.
In a demo at Mashable's
offices, Nuance reps showed us a mock banking app equipped with Nina.
Responding to commands like "Pay my bill," or even "Pay the full balance
on my Visa bill on August first," Nina performed tasks that would
probably take complex navigation in one step.
Nina is dependent on
Nuance's Voice Assistant Cloud, so she won't work without a network
connection. And as we discovered in the demo, her speed and ability to
parse longer phrases depend on the quality of that connection. Using a
Verizon 3G modem, Nina had trouble figuring out the longer bill-paying
command above, but on Wi-Fi she executed it almost instantly.
Nina also happens to
sound almost exactly like Siri, though Nuance says businesses will be
able to choose from 40 different voices, and even be able to customize
it with their own voice "persona," if they have one.
One of the major
differences between Nina and Siri is voice biometrics, which means Nina
can actually tell that it's you talking, and not someone who just picked
up your phone. This can act as both a security and convenience feature
-- after all, passwords become redundant if the app can tell it's the
right person speaking just by voice.