For years, companies have been trying to reinvent the gaming wheel. The way we consume TV and movies has been changed forever by streaming platforms like Netflix, and has only been bolstered further by a global crisis preventing anyone from going outside.
Some companies, like Ouya and Razer Forge TV, touted themselves as the “future of gaming” – because they let you access the Android store’s gaming library in your living room. Apple Arcade, a far more realized concept (and, y’know, the only one that is still operational) – lets you use the controllers you already have to stream hundreds of games from the iOS store, ad-free, for a low monthly rate.
Other companies, like NVidia and Google, have tried their hand at truly ushering in a “Netflix for games”, but neither NVidia’s GEForce Now nor Google Stadia have hit the mark. Stadia is still plagued with latency issues and an obnoxious business model, and GEForce now’s flimsy library can only be compared to what Netflix’s streaming library used to look like before DVDs and Blu Rays went the way of the dinosaurs.
Enter Amazon’s long-rumored gaming platform, which initially was said to be some sort of “Fire Console” based off their Fire streaming sticks. What was unveiled yesterday, however, is the Amazon Luna – and it looks like it might have the potential to succeed where its predecessors have failed.
Right off the bat, Luna’s business model is actually in line with what you’d imagine the “Netflix of games” would cost. 100 games at launch, $6 “introductory” monthly subscription. That’s all. By comparison, Google Stadia’s “Pro” subscription ($10/mo) offers a rotating list of 25 free games… Everything else is gonna run you the standard $60.
In an official press release, Amazon also said that they’ve partnered with Ubisoft to add a “channel” to Luna, which will specifically feature Ubisoft’s titles.
Players who subscribe to this channel will have access to their favorite Ubisoft titles in up to 4K resolution, mobile gameplay, and access to new titles when the channel launches like Assassins Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Immortals Fenyx Rising the same day they release. This is the first of multiple Luna game channels in development, where customers can play games from their favorite publishers and genres.Amazon Official Press Release
To me, this sounds like Amazon will try to
cannibalize partner with other AAA developers who already have their own premium game streaming services (EA Play likely being a future candidate) to create new “channels” within the Luna platform. While I don’t like this idea solely because it sounds like these will amount to extra subscription fees, it is an interesting idea to consolidate an already saturated market.
Amazon has promised that “select titles” will support 4K resolution and 60 fps refresh rates, but Luna will allow up to two devices to stream games simultaneously. So if you’ve got a roommate or a significant other who games as well, $6 is a pretty great value.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Amazon offering without integrations for the rest of their ecosystem. Luna will integrate with Twitch (shocker), and allow users to jump into games directly from Twitch streams. No details on how that’s going to work just yet, but it’s a very interesting concept to think about.
Luna can be played with keyboard and mouse, third-party Bluetooth gamepads, Xbox One and PS4 Dualshock controllers and – of course – a proprietary Amazon Luna controller, which’ll set gamers back $49.99. Amazon claims their controller “connects effortlessly to the cloud” and cuts down on roundtrip latency by 17-30 milliseconds. Neat.
At the end of the day, only giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and even Apple if they wanted to – could pull something like this off and truly bring it to customers at an enticing value. Apple doesn’t feel like doing that, Google can’t figure out how to do that, and Microsoft is already doing that with xCloud and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate – which just crossed 15 million subscribers.
Luna seems like a great idea, and their introductory price is very enticing. However, only time will tell if Amazon’s latest foray into gaming will suffer the same fate as all who have come before, or if they will usher in a new age of game streaming services that might even force Microsoft’s hand in continuing to improve upon their Game Pass and xCloud platforms.
How will Amazon Luna fare in the wake of such a bleak track record of products and services that game before it, and in the face of a new console generation and Microsoft’s already ironlike grip on cloud gaming? Only time will tell.