Amazon have announced that they are to introduce their own currency in May called Amazon Coins to be used exclusively with the company’s range of Kindle Fire tablets.
Supposedly aimed at making it easier to buy apps, in-app purchases, games and media on the Kindle Fire devices, Amazon will be giving away millions of pounds worth of the Coins worldwide to encourage adoption of the new payment system.
Developers working on apps for Amazon will still make 70% from each sale using Amazon Coins, but only apps and games approved by Amazon ahead of April 25 will be eligible to use the currency, which could lead to frustrating fragmentation of payment options within apps.
“Developers continue to report higher conversion rates on Amazon compared to other platforms,” Paul Ryder, Amazon’s Vice President of Apps and Games, said in a statement accompanying the news.
“Now we have another new way to help developers reach even more of our millions of customers.”
Reach, customers, eh? More like more ways to confuse them. Amazon already have one-click purchases as an option for customers signed up to their store with a confirmed credit or debit card, and it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
This sounds more like something like Microsoft Points on the Xbox 360, something that even Microsoft are rumoured to be considering dropping. If Amazon Coins are anything like the Microsoft Xbox 360 payment system, it’s a way of cloaking the real monetary value of content, not to mention forcing users into buying arbitrary bundles of Coins that may not necessarily line up with the amount that users need to purchase the things they want. It’s unclear yet whether or not you’ll be able to turn unused Coins back into real-world currency, but it’s unlikely, meaning you’ll either need to leave them festering in an account or top up a few stray Coins in order to make a worthwhile purchase, likely leaving you with more leftover Coins and kicking off the cycle all over again.
For Amazon (whose profits are never quite as impressive as the revenue they generate), it’s a shrewd move to counteract their loss-leading Kindle product pricing. But ultimately I fear that consumers are going to lose out.