Amazon Fire TV: Developer Review

Last week I finally caved and purchased an Amazon Fire TV. I was very skeptical for awhile about purchasing one, especially since initial consumer reviews considered it an “in-beta” product and that the USB port on it doesn’t even support external hard drives or thumbdrives yet. However, a colleague of mine raved about it since it has the capability to accept XBMC and other 3rd part applications, so he actually bought 5 of them. Also, since I created Maddie Bear’s Snack Time for the Fire TV, it seemed like I should be able to test it for myself on an actual device.

 

Unboxing/Set Up/App Development

Unboxing it reminded me of unboxing the Apple TV. It was just the unit, remote, and a power cord. Setup was also the same, just plug it in and hook it to your TV via HDMI cable and the unit powers up. One thing that I thought was strange is that there’s no way to hook the Fire TV to your computer for app development, it has to be done through your Terminal/Command window. Once you have your Fire TV set up, you’ll have to go into the Settings > About and get its IP address. Then on your computer, connect to it via Terminal/Command window to push apps via adb commands (./adb connect <ip address> ; ./adb install AppName.apk ; etc.). This is pretty easy and I suppose it does save you the time from having to attach/detach the unit from your computer over and over.

 

Memory

Memory is kind of an issue depending on how many apps/games you plan on installing. After the operating system and XBMC, I had a little over 5 gigs of space left. This doesn’t sound terrible until you consider the fact that a lot of the higher-end games take 2-4 gigs of hard drive space. For example, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas takes up almost a gig. Then when you go to play, it says it needs to install another 2 gigs of data. If I were able to hook a thumb drive to the Fire TV and install games on that, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but since it wanted over half my available space, I opted not to install GTA.

 

Game Controller

Amazon Fire TV Remote and Game Controller
Amazon Fire TV Remote and Game Controller

Games and apps are categorized as Remote support or Game Controller support. Initially my game Maddie Bear’s Snack Time only supported the remote because I didn’t own a device to map out the game controls. I purchased a game controller and was able to add controller support by the following day. From a consumer standpoint, I do prefer games with controller capability, it makes it feel like you’re playing a real video game and not just an Android app that was ported over last second. Also, as a consumer, I really want there to be more great games available. The more I play on the Fire TV, the more I find myself enjoying the experience as a gaming machine.

 

Amazon Coins

If you do develop a game for the Fire TV and integrate Game Circle, Amazon is running a promotion where they’ll give you Amazon coins to give out to your customers. For example, (at the time of this writing) if you purchase GTA San Andreas, you’ll get $20 worth of Amazon coins as a bonus. Unfortunately, Corona SDK does not support Game Circle as of this moment, so Corona-made apps are not available for the Amazon Coin promotion. If you’re thinking about making an app with game controller support, I would purchase a game controller as soon as possible. Amazon is running a limited-time promotion where you receive $10 of Amazon coins and a $7 game, “Sev Zero”, with the purchase of a game controller. So essentially, you can buy a $40 game controller, get $10 of free coins, get $7 Sev for free, buy GTA for $7 with the coins, get another $20 of free coins, and end up with $14 of games, $33 of Amazon Coins, and a game controller for $40.

Since Amazon is giving away from coins like candy, it’s helping indie developer app sales. Where normally people might be hesitant to purchase a game that only has 1 or 2 reviews, now they’re free to buy it since they’re just using coins they got for free. The more developers are able to give away free coins from feature Game Circle apps, the more it helps the community as well. If you’re looking for a great platform to check out, I’d recommend getting a Fire TV.

Looking to make your own Fire TV app using Corona SDK? Check out Ed Maurina’s Fire TV plugin here.

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