Amazon just announced this morning that come May, the company will be rolling out a virtual currency program known as Amazon Coins. Owners of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets will be able to use the virtual funds to purchase apps and games within the Amazon Appstore. In-app purchases will also be possible with the new currency, a structure that Amazon hopes will benefit app developers directly.

Amazon apparently feels that if its app users have an simple, fun option for buying things in their Appstore, developers will almost inevitably see higher revenues as a result. As it happens, despite the fact that developers receive a standard 70 percent payout per purchase through the Amazon Appstore, those developers who offer the same (or similar) titles in the Apple App Store or the Google Play store generally report better sales from Amazon’s competing app store markets.

Here’s even better news for Kindle Fire fans: Amazon also announced this morning its plan to give away “tens of millions of dollars’ worth” of free Amazon Coins at launch. Aside from being a sure-fire marketing tactic, some have suggested that Amazon might be giving away its virtual currency as a way of testing the popularity (or lack thereof) of potential niche markets.

Once the Coins program launches, some users may prefer to use the pre-paid Coins, a process that would simulate more of a gift card buying experience. Parents, for example, would be better able to control and monitor their child’s spending through Amazon’s Appstore with ‘Coins’ bought through their own personal Amazon accounts.

“Amazon Coins gives customers an easy way to spend money on developers’ apps on Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore,” said Paul Ryder, vice president of apps and games for Amazon. “Developers who aren’t yet in the Amazon Appstore will want to make sure their apps have been submitted and approved by April 25 so they’re ready for customers to start spending their Amazon Coins.”


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