Amazon begins rewarding top-performing Alexa Skill developers with direct payments

Amazon has quietly launched a new program that will directly pay developers building high-quality Alexa skills — the voice-activated apps for Alexa-powered devices like the Amazon Echo speaker and related products. This is the first time Amazon has offered a means for Alexa developers to monetize their skills on its app store.

Developers are reporting having received emails from Amazon (see screenshot below), which explains how the program operates.

The email begins by congratulating the selected developer for having one of the top-performing game skills on the platform. It then notes that Amazon is “exploring new ways to reward our developers” by offering compensation in the form of payments for their skills based on customer usage.

A Q&A on Amazon’s site further confirms the program’s details, but doesn’t offer a lot of specifics in terms of how usage is measured of what sort of payment scale is being utilized here. Instead, it simply explains that usage “could be” measured through a variety of metrics, like minutes the skill is used, the number of new customers being added and other measures of engagement.

As for payments, Amazon only vaguely states that those will be based on the Skill’s usage.

The program begins this month, and developers will be alerted by an email from the Alexa team if their skill qualifies for inclusion.

“I am not sure how many people are getting [the email], but I know a few are,” says Kevin Marshall, CTO of adtech company Veritonic, who developed the Math Mania Skill in his down time. “No one shared their amounts yet, so it’s not clear where on the scale my [payment of] $133.84 falls,” he says.

As more developers join the program and find out how much they’re earning, it will be easier to figure out what sort of scale Amazon is using to determine its payouts.

While the obvious motivation behind compensating developers directly is to help seed the Alexa Skill Store with high-quality content consumers will like, Amazon spells this out in its FAQ:

“We are starting by rewarding game skill developers because game skills are not only fun and delightful but also represent some of the most engaging experiences on Alexa for our customers,” the site says.

Initially, only game developers are being compensated, but the above statement hints that the program may expand to other categories in the future.

Today, however, Amazon is selecting skills from those voice apps categorized in the “Games, Trivia, & Accessories” category only.

Though this is the first time Amazon has rewarded developers for their skills in the form of direct payments, Amazon has incentivized developers to build for its Alexa platform prior to now by offering them AWS credits to those who have a skill in production.

Amazon declined to comment.