The Kindle can’t do Contra; not yet, at least

Yesterday, Amazon announced that it is opening the Kindle platform to developers with the release of the KDK. Games were mentioned as a type of media set to hit the e-book reader — but what should we expect?

I spoke with Sonic Boom Games COO Josh Grant this afternoon about his studio’s involvement with the platform, asking with skepticism about what kind of games that might hit the Kindle in the future.

In short, Grant doesn’t think the Kindle audience is ready for Call of Duty: Kindle Edition. Yet.

“You touched on a key point,” Grant tells me over the phone, “which is that the primary use of the platform is an e-reader. It’s obviously a great device for that.

“Given that people for a very long time, I’m sure, to come will be buying the Kindle for its primary use, I would not expect to see games like Call of Duty or other hardcore shooters or racing games or MMOs on the device.”

Grant believes that Sonic Boom is perfect for the platform — as a casual games and social application creator.

“If you think about it from that context, as we did, it leads you down the path of staying away from those typical core games and that really plays to our strong suit because we’re a social application and casual games developer.

“So with a new platform like this we try to do some market research on the front end. Obviously, get hold of the hardware and start checking out the content and try to devise an approach to the platform that’s balanced for risk and reward and takes advantage of what the platform can do technically and matches consumer expectations.

“At least for us, the initial foray for the Kindle will be around proven casual game mechanics in the word, puzzle, and card genre.”

In the KDK announcement, Sonic Boom was listed as creating puzzle and word titles for the Kindle: two genres that won’t strain the reader’s hardware. With EA Mobile’s also-announced involvement with the Kindle in mind, I kept pressing, asking if action games were even possible on the handheld.

“There’s a learning curve on our end from our development team’s perspective in getting familiar with the platform. It’s built on some pretty widely adopted technical standards with some good documentation in a language many people will be familiar with.

“So that part’s will be easy. We’re still learning the capabilities of the device and we will expect, probably, more aggressive games to come in the future.

Grant says that Sonic Boom is also branching out of the word, puzzle, and card game genres for the Kindle post-launch. Expect book tie-in applications, perhaps, or just interactive bits of media.

“Beyond the puzzle, word, card games. There are some games that we’re working on that take advantage of the literary aspects of the device primarily as an e-reader.”

We have some things that we’re working on post-launch that we’re pretty excited about that we think will be uniquely suited to the Kindle given the demographic and the primary use of the platform. “

Brad BradNicholson