Wednesday, February 4, 2009 Initial Experience

So, in a much anticipated move after their acquisition of Reflexive Entertainment, launched their videogame download store beta:

Here are some thoughts re: Initial Experience.

First, the good:
  • As an existing Amazon customer, time from "hit the download button" to "playing the free demo" was less than 5 minutes. Not bad considering I needed to install the downloader first. The default install pipeline was simple (with advanced options available) for someone like me who has used other installers and is familiar with the drill.
  • Every game has a Free Demo. Yes, yes, and more yes. You listening Wii Ware?
  • First hit is free. I failed to notice the Free Demo policy initially (see my comments below), but even better than that is the offer of 3 games for free. Basically Amazon games is saying "try our product and install pipeline for free -- we're banking on you liking it so much that you'll be back and buy some games". This is the kind of personal utility that will cause people to log in -- or even sign up for a new account if they don't already have one.
Now, the "Needs Improvement" (I realize that many of these features are probably already in the works for the next Beta or full release, but mention them to be thorough):
  • Free Stuff. Free Trial. I didn't notice any of these messages on the page at first (even though they are featured prominently above the fold). Why not? Probably because I'm there for content (I'm scanning box art to see if I recognize any games or if any of them look cool and fun to play). I'll bet if we used eye-tracking we'd find that the user's flow was from 'pretty game box art' to 'pretty game box art'. And the only other thing there is "Price: $9.99" in bold red text. There needs to be a way for the user to learn that the game he or she is interested in has a free download version just by looking at the box art. It should be at least as prominent as the price sticker.
  • Box art was too small for most games. There is cool and well-branded content available -- but it's hard to notice. I like the fact that there is lots of white space (easier on the eyes), but I want bigger pictures. This is supposed to be FUN.
  • Note that Amazon has attempted to solve both of the above issues on other pages by having larger images with mouseover hot spots that provide purchase/wish list options. Just change this to purchase/download free trial options.
  • Where are my community features? I want ratings, reviews, discussions, tags, uploading of high scores, videos of game play cheats and quirks...
  • Where are my personalization features (obviously we need to wait for better data before implementing this, but I can't wait!)
  • The top-center graphic (a rack of dozens of games) looks like the interactive "lazy susan" on other pages that I should be able to spin by mousing over it. But I can't. And that makes me sad.
But what do I most want to see? I want a platform experience that rewards my loyalty. I want Achievements and Gamer Points. I want Friends Lists and Leaderboards. I want aggregated play data on what folks are downloading, playing, and loving. And I want to share all this information via a Facebook App.

All in all, a great first step. I can't wait to see future iterations.

NOTE: Full disclaimer... I'm a former Amazon employee (community and social features) and frequent customer.

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