Amazon launches new game studio

(Amazon/ CNN)

Amazon is getting into the game-making game. The Seattle-based company announced its first major social-game title, "Living Classics," on Monday.

The free Facebook game is the first from its Amazon Game Studios, a new department at the e-commerce giant that was also unveiled Monday.

"Amazon Game Studios is exactly what it sounds like: a new team at Amazon that's focused on creating innovative, fun and well-crafted games," said the company in a blog post on the new games.amazon.com site. The department is currently hiring, but few other details are given.

The social-gaming field is still dominated by Zynga, maker of addictive games such as Farmville and Words With Friends and their various spin-offs. But the company has been struggling since going public in December; Zynga's stock closed at $2.94 a share on Monday.

Yet another social game isn't much of a threat to Zynga, but Amazon has the firepower necessary to become a legitimate competitor, thanks to its large network of customers with active accounts. Amazon can also target any games it does build to users of its popular Kindle tablets.

Amazon isn't revealing much about its motivation for entering the game market, saying only, "We know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games -- including free-to-play social games -- and thanks to Amazon's know-how, we believe we can deliver a great, accessible gaming experience that gamers and our customers can play any time."

The first game is a simple literature-themed puzzle game.

Players are presented with busy illustrations of scenes loosely based on classic books. To get points called cash and coins, they must quickly spot and click moving objects on the screen. Levels include takes on "Alice in Wonderland," "Wizard of Oz," "King Arthur" and more generic themes such as pirates and haunted houses. ("Classics" could mean more than just books -- one of the illustrations on the official Living Classics Facebook fan page show two X-Files type characters.)

Since this is a Facebook game, there are plenty of opportunities to play the game with friends. And since games are big business, there are options to spend real money on in-app purchases.

Players can stock up on game currency -- a dollar buys you five units of "cash" currency, and $100 gets you 660. However the feature doesn't appear to be working at this time.