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We’ve for many years heard that Amazon is planning to enter the world of gaming in a big way. We’ve seen half-efforts like Sev Zero and other more mobile-focused titles in the past, or of course, there is their big move acquisition of Twitch for just shy of a billion dollars, but it’s never quite been clear what their end goal was, as none of these steps has fully formulated into a solid coherent plan. That’s about to change though if we’re to believe a new report from the New York Times.
According to this new report, Amazon is planning to release two big games in the next month. Crucible is their take on the online shooter genre, featuring anthropomorphic animals, so certain corners of the internet like tumblr etc are bound to be interested in it. Then there’s also New World, a fantasy MMO set in the 1600s, but not much else is known about it at this stage.
Beyond those two upcoming releases, one of their biggest upcoming gaming projects is their Lord of the Rings MMO, which is set to release alongside their LOTR prequel TV series that is currently mid-production in New Zealand, although it has gone on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with currently no concrete idea of when it will resume production, or release. It’s not exactly clear what level of inter-connection there will be between this game and the TV series, or indeed the Lord of The Rings film series by Peter Jackson. It could be that this game is simply based on the same property, and shares some of the same locations, or we could perhaps see characters being shared across both, and using the actors’ likenesses and voice performance in the game. Certainly, this is a big opportunity for Amazon to make their mark on pop culture across multiple formats, and if they pull it off they could make a big splash.
However perhaps their biggest move, rather than simply individual game titles, is their platform strategy, where they are in the middle of preparing a competitor to the likes of Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s Geforce Now and Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud, in their own cloud gaming streaming service, internally dubbed “Project Tempo”.
Amazon is hoping to launch this service in 2020, but depending on a variety of factors, it could end up slipping to 2021. The ongoing challenges facing all of us relating to the COVID-19 pandemic are a big factor, where the uncertainty around the economy, global internet infrastructure, and consumer activity is I’m sure a matter that Amazon is putting a lot of thought into currently, and maybe waiting until the worst of these circumstances have blown over might be a more sensible strategy.
Regardless of precisely when it launches, getting into cloud game streaming is a play that makes a lot of sense for Amazon. They are one of the few companies out there that can go toe to toe with the likes of Google and Microsoft for cloud computing. They have server farms all over the world, powering not just their eCommerce websites, but also a huge chunk of the internet. Their Amazon Web Service division is a market leader in the space of cloud computing, and so they are well-positioned to transition that into gaming, should they be able to come up with a compelling offering.
This could be a bumpy road ahead. Will Amazon’s moves towards gaming perhaps put them at odds with big partners for them like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo? Currently, they sell a lot of units of games and gaming hardware globally, they are an extremely big player in traditional gaming online retail, but how their relationship might change with key games industry players as they transition from being not just a partner, but also a competitor, could be a big shakeup in how things are done. Will console manufacturers be happy listing games for their consoles for sale on Amazon if Amazon is using that same-store page to heavily promote their own rival gaming service?
Similarly, with Twitch, many games companies have been more than happy to include and promote Twitch integration into their games and services when Amazon has not been a direct rival, but if Amazon is coming up with plans to more aggressively convert Twitch users into Amazon Gaming users, might we see some other games companies seek to back away from supporting Twitch? Microsoft already has their own livestreaming service Mixer, perhaps something that in part Microsoft have specifically invested in so as to hedge their bets if they ever want to pull back from using and supporting Twitch.
Amazon has been making efforts to be a major player in the games space in their own right, and they’ve not nailed it yet, but perhaps Cloud Gaming could be their big way in. Certainly, they have some strong relationships in place with certain game developers and publishers, but operating their own platform is not going to be a straightforward task.
Is mid-2020 really going to be the best time to make a big bet on a new gaming service, especially one that is so reliant on a currently over-stretched internet infrastructure? Certainly, Amazon has the resources and much of the back end in place to be a big player in cloud gaming and other aspects of the games industry, but they’re going to need to have the right strategy, and whether or not they have formulated that is a question that is as of yet unanswered, and only time will tell.