Wooing publishers and gamers with sound business and easy-access games adds a major new player to the mix
Imagine firing up your console or PC, and using your Amazon Prime to start sampling or playing games instantly. Cool games, made by the major studios, and cheaper than anywhere else or even free. That's what Amazon is aiming for.
In case you've missed it, Amazon has been quietly ramping up its commitment to gaming over the last few years. High profile acquisitions of Twitch and Double Helix grabbed headlines, but behind the scenes the web giant has been making changes that are arguably far more significant.
Amazon Game Studios/AGS
First, it's worth noting that although the majority of people think of Amazon primarily as an online retailer, the more relevant part of its business here is its web servicing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides the backbone for cloud services for a large part of the internet.
AWS is a strong profit centre for Amazon - much more than the retailing division - as is its Amazon Prime streaming service, so combine the two and you have a cash-rich match made in heaven for digital products, in this case games. AWS is already used by many major studios to provide the infrastructure for games we play online.
Amazon Game Studios/AGS
Additionally, Amazon has been making strong overtures to game makers large and small with the introduction of a new free-to-use game engine - Lumberyard - intended to compete with the likes of Unity and Unreal . We saw a demo at an AWS event a few months ago, and it was very slick for an early days product according to game devs.
What makes Lumberyard extra appealing to developers is that it comes free if you use AWS to underpin any cloud requirements the game comes with - no licence fee or revenue share needed.
Allied to that AWS has made some major overhauls to the way that networking and back end support for games are set up, specifically to make it easier for game devs - rarely fans of the dirty job of setting up networks - to use them.
It's a series of major commitments meant to outline "We take gaming seriously...". It used the same event to unveil a host of new features for Twitch too, to let streamers interact better with viewers, including inviting them into games.
On the heels of all this then comes the first major steps into the fray for actual Amazon-produced games. The first fruits of its Double Helix purchase comes in the shape of the new Amazon Game Studios first release, Breakaway , for which you can sign up for Alpha.
Breakaway is a combination 4v4 sports-brawler-shooter hybrid, which in this footage looks a ton of fun and seemingly tailor-made for Twitch and streaming. They didn't call it a MOBA, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...
Next up is New World, a massive multiplayer open-world sandbox game set in 17th Century America - an America populated by monsters, supernatural entities, and bandits.
Completing the launch trio is Crucible, a 13-player PvP actioner, where the 13th player acts as gamesmaster and influences the game with events and boosts and can base actions on Twitch feedback from viewers.
None of the above alone seems like a major development in itself, but take them altogether and it seems clear that Amazon is putting all the blocks in place to become as influential a figure in games as it is in TV.
The combination of handing access to viewers and creating its own content is a mirror for how Amazon Prime is wrecking it in TV; add in a steroid-boosted Twitch (now integrating Curse too) that lets viewers get involved with the game action itself, and you have a three-pronged approach that is impossible to ignore.
How the studio fairs will of course be down to the games, but on screen or behind the scenes, as long as it remains committed Amazon will grow in stature for importance to gamers.