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Amazon launches casual-game download service

The online retail giant dips into digital downloads for casual games, letting users purchase games in a similar fashion to its MP3 download store.

Amazon on Tuesday launched its first foray into digital downloads for games. The new online store offers more than 600 casual titles without the need for physical media. Amazon says all the titles at launch are under either $6.99 or $9.99 with older titles leaning towards the lower end of the spectrum. As an added promotion, the company is giving away three free titles, which gamers have a week to scoop up before the prices return to normal.

The launch comes just a little over two months since Amazon acquired Reflexive Entertainment, a casual-game service that is still selling titles with its own DRM solution and store front. In Amazon's case, purchased games must be downloaded with a special download tool similar to what's required to grab music tracks from the company's MP3 service. The games then phone home the first time you launch them to verify the purchase information.

Each game can be played for 30 minutes as a timed trial before the need to purchase. This model directly competes with that from Yahoo Games and to a certain degree Valve's Steam service, although unlike Valve, Amazon is not yet offering a download service for larger AAA titles from major publishers.

The service is PC-only for now, which is mostly a limitation from game developers who don't offer the titles on computers running OS X or Linux. However, a Mac version of the store is likely in the works.