Amazon.com has officially launched the beta version of their Game Downloads section this morning, offering more than 600 casual titles for digital download, each under $10.
Kotaku spoke to Greg Hart, Vice President of Video Games and Software for Amazon.com about the new service, who explained that offering casual games for purchase and download via the popular online shopping marketplace is a boon to both customers and developers. Customers benefit by having a safe place to download their games with the same quality and convenience they've come to expect from Amazon.com, while casual developers who have never released a retail box have the online equivalent of a big box retailer where they can display their wares.
Customers are able to download and try any game sold through the service for 30 minutes, after which they can either purchase the full game or forget they ever played it. As a special promotion good for the first week only, customers can download full versions of Jewel Quest II, The Scruffs, an Built-A-Lot completely free of charge.
So why casual games, instead of just going for an all-encompassing online store model like Valve's Steam?
"Casual Games are a natural fit with our demographic," explains Hart. "We have 88 million active customers who can appreciate the convenience of the true amazon shopping experience combined with the casual games experience." The man makes a very good point. The person who spends a great deal of time browsing Amazon.com is open to new experiences on their computers, and quick, inexpensive casual games delivered by a trusted source should prove extremely popular to the shopping masses.
That's not to say that the Game Downloads section won't expend into other, more mainstream titles in the future. "We always want to offer the widest selection possible, just like we've done with our boxed games over the past two years."
So don't worry, Valve. With Amazon focused strictly on providing inexpensive casual titles to the shopping masses, they are no threat to your digital download empire at all. For now.