Amazon is getting into gaming this month with their new streaming platform, but is it something we should be excited about?
With the releases of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X next month, it comes as a surprise that Amazon announced its intent to compete in the gaming industry. What is their new platform all about and what is the commotion surrounding "cloud gaming?"
Amazon Luna is the company’s new cloud gaming service that allows players to stream certain video game titles to various PC, Mac and iOS devices without the need to download any of the games. The service has an introductory price of $5.99 a month, which will include a Netflix-style library of games. More games will become available to create a more premium experience at an additional cost. Luna is also launching with its own controller with Alexa built-in voice technology, priced at $49.99.
Every major player in the tech industry is experimenting with their own business model for game streaming, with Microsoft’s Project xCloud to Google’s Stadia each taking their own unique approach. Right now, Amazon Luna appears to be seen as primarily a way to sell games to new customers, and less of a way to give existing ones more ways to play titles they already own on other platforms, which is only one of the many reasons why Amazon Luna is not something we want.
The idea of Luna entering into a developing sector of a well-established gaming market doesn’t sound all that great when other competitors have failed because of their inexperience (see: Google Stadia’s failure). It is fair to say Amazon has advantages over Google when it comes to gaming, particularly when it comes to streaming. Amazon has ownership of Twitch, the largest ]streaming community on the internet, and will surely use it as a way to advertise their product, possibly by partnering with popular streamers.
The company will also likely push Luna on their website, similarly to how they push their Kindle and Alexa products with constant advertising on the front page. While Amazon may have cultivated the right environment for marketing their new product, this doesn’t necessarily translate to sales and good reception from the gaming audience.
With Google Stadia, there weren't enough new and exciting games to warrant investing into the platform, and this is something we may also see from Luna. As of right now, Amazon is planning to launch with more than 50 games, including Remedy Entertainment’s Control, Resident Evil 7 and Metro Exodus. While these are highly acclaimed games, none of them are new titles or platform exclusives that would draw customers away from other platforms like Xbox and Sony with their own large libraries of exclusive games.
Unlike the aforementioned gaming companies, Amazon isn’t creating any original content, and is acting more as a distributor for games that are already available on other platforms. Exclusive, original content is a way to draw in potential customers to choose Luna over other competitors, so if Amazon wants to stand a chance at reaching a broader gaming audience, the company would have to be willing to spend $5 to $10 billion over the next two years.
The money would allow them to acquire game studios that will develop the necessary exclusive content and catch up to the other strong competitors in the gaming market. Amazon knows how to throw billions of dollars into different markets, but it’s hard to tell if they’ll have the knowledge and patience to ensure their success.
The greatest hindrance to Amazon Luna’s plan is the fact that cloud technology hasn’t hit the mainstream market yet, and for a good reason. To wirelessly stream games, Luna uses what is referred to as cloud technology, a data center with on-demand availability for users over the internet. This technology is still in its testing phase, similar to where the popular VR headsets were a few years ago, but there are extremely high expectations for what the technology should do.
The problem is that fast internet connection still isn’t widely accessible in urban and rural locations, and it’s essential in order to even dream about reaching the “instantly-stream-any-game-at-4K-resolution” claim that has been promised in the past. Maybe Amazon is trying to get into the market early, but a failure at this stage would make it difficult to rebound in consumers’ minds when cloud technology ultimately replaces the currently superior PC and console gaming experience.
The cloud gaming market and games as a service are quickly becoming popular, albeit a little crowded. It’s hard not to get excited for cloud gaming because once it’s done well, it will usher in a new era for gaming that significantly changes the way we access, play and pay for games. Amazon Luna will likely do better than Stadia on several fronts, but Amazon can’t throw endless amounts of money at this market and come out as winners over experienced companies like Valve and Microsoft that have dominated the overall gaming market for years. Luna may be an exciting step toward the future of gaming, but it’s certainly not the next big thing.
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