Amazon has replaced its ham-fisted Free App of the Day program, which offered a single paid app for free every day, with a new dedicated Android app called Underground.
The idea behind Underground is actually quite sound: lots of Android apps purport to be free, but have extremely limited functionality until you pony up for an additional payment, or some in-app currency — a problem particularly acute in mobile games. Instead, with Underground, Amazon posts some apps that are, in their words, “actually free,” where they work with the developer to subsidize in-app purchases. The more time spend inside the app, the more the developer gets paid.
According to Amazon, it is “picking up those per-minute charges — so for you it’s simply free.” The company goes on to say that the Underground app is a “long-term program rather than a one-off promotion,” so can we expect some evolution and changes to the revenue model down the road.
Underground includes some paid apps like Goat Simulator and djay2, as well as free-to-play games with most of their in-app purchases nullified, such as Sonic Dash and Jetpack Joyride. Like the previous Amazon Appstore, the app must be installed in order to use the apps you download. Amazon explains how to sideload the main app and allow third-party app installs, too.
On the developer side, Amazon is pushing Underground as an alternative to the Google Play Store for revenue. It says that most games on the Play Store don’t make money in the long term, and rely too heavily on expensive, impractical in-app purchases or time blocks to generate revenue. Instead, with Underground, Amazon pays developers for time spent in the app, so the most profitable ones are those that engage users the longest. Amazon is paying developers $0.002/minute for the time being, but promises to tweak that number going forward.