Amazon will stop paying bonuses to Alexa developers

Incentives for Alexa skills will end in June, but developers can still make money from in-app purchases.


Amazon has decided to cut off paid perks for Alexa developers. The company confirmed to Engadget on Wednesday that it will end the Alexa Developer Rewards Program at the end of June. A second program that rewards developers for using Amazon Web Services as the backend for their Alexa apps will wrap up at the same time.

With the emergence of generative AI, the pioneering voice assistant’s third-party apps (“skills”) no longer appear to be a central focus for the company. The news was first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Engadget with the company.

Amazon described the move as a case of phasing out an old project that had run its course. “These are older programs launched back in 2017 as a way to help newer developers interested in building skills accelerate their progress,” an Amazon spokesperson wrote to Engadget. “Today, there are over 160,000 skills available for customers, a well-established Alexa developer community, and new LLM-powered tools that will help developers build new experiences for Alexa. These older programs have simply run their course, so we decided to sunset them.”

The company told me the program launched when developers were still learning to make voice apps, and it was designed to help them get started. Amazon told Engadget that fewer than one percent of developers were using the program. It said Alexa developers will still get paid for in-app purchases from their Alexa skills, adding that the cost of making them has gone down while developer knowledge has gone up.

The Alexa Developer Rewards Program was created to incentivize developers who made high-quality skills for the assistant. Launched in 2017, when Alexa was all the rage, the program paid developers bonuses for skills that met engagement thresholds in specific categories. It was part of Amazon’s quest to turn Alexa Skills into a booming app store for a new generation of voice-first devices, a vision that never fully came to fruition.

Now, the renewed interest in AI assistants is about generative AI, which can handle many of the same tasks as Alexa’s skills (likely much better in some cases). At its fall 2023 devices event, Amazon previewed a next-generation version of Alexa with ChatGPT-like generative AI abilities. The company has also gradually integrated the next-gen tech into its seller tools and product pages.

Bloomberg reports that third-party apps weren’t making Amazon much money (unsurprising, given today’s news). The company cut the available funds for Alexa developer payments in 2020. Amazon also laid off several hundred employees in its Alexa division late last year. Meanwhile, Google threw in the towel long ago: It eliminated third-party voice apps for Google Assistant altogether in 2022.