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Amazon Invades Free To Play Worlds, Brings Gifts

Amazon US already sells just about everything on Earth. Now, it's shipping to parallel worlds via its new Free To Play aisle, with games including Super MNC, Battlestar Galactica, Run! Escape! - no, wait, sorry, Runescape, and Allods Online. Not only can you grab the games from the site, you can attach your Amazon details to your main account and make purchases from its website. It's like Steam, only you can also buy Armando Iannucci's face on a bag!

It's a good looking service, though I wasn't able to try it out. American companies not wanting us foreigners' money is no surprise, and apparently we can't even not give it to them now. I could have set up a fake address or something, I suppose, but I need a better reason than Allods Online for even harmless acts of fraud, never mind actually buying virtual crap.

The basics though are solid. Amazon passes the game its instructions to give you what you ordered, while keeping details like your address and phone number to itself. You can unlink games at any point, and don't need to create one through Steam. You'll also have access to any of your game's existing built-in stores if the thing you want isn't available via Amazon or if there's a special deal/bundle you want to take advantage of. That seems quite likely - so far, only seven games seem to have any purchasable goodies, with the focus apparently more on starter pack type content than individual hats. Still, with characters in Super MNC and money in 8BitMMO, it looks like people will be able to sell more or less whatever goodies they like.

Check the Battlestar Galactica description. It's nice to be able to see *exactly* when someone stopped giving a crap.

Some games also have some Amazon exclusives, including a free character bundle for Rise of Immortals, a fancy golden katana in Runescape, and less generously, the chance to spend 3,500 crowns in Shin Megami Tensei to get a voucher exchangeable for a virtual necklace to show you're one of the few PC players who know what Shin Megami Tensei is. Nothing too special, but nice to have if you've been meaning to download one of these games anyway. Steam still remains the best one-stop-shop for F2P games, but it is only Day 1.

The big advantage of a store like this is obviously one of trust - a little like Steam, there's much less risk in going through a known quantity instead of trusting your details to a company you've never even heard of before. For the developers though, the fact you're only one click/one password away from buying something definitely won't hurt - even after Amazon's cut. There's also some interesting cross-marketing potential given the range of stuff on the site. Looking for, say, a Flash comic? It'd be very easy to add "By the way, you can play with his powers in this DC Universe Online pack. Want to try it out? It'll only cost you a few dollars..."

Amazon probably won't be selling any Team Fortress 2 hats in the near future though, and there's no word on whether your digital deliveries will arrive any faster with Amazon Prime. You can always pretend though. Having to wait a whole 48 milliseconds longer is so 2011.

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Richard Cobbett