Friday TechMunch: Game On, Amazon

As we mentioned last week, Amazon has been busy recently.

One of the most interesting rumours and acquisitions surrounding ‘The Everything Store’ is the leak of a potential new gaming console controller and the purchase of Californian games studio, Double Helix.

Now, these rumours have been doing the rounds since 2012, when Amazon Game Studios launched its social game development arm, but things have been pretty quiet since then. The company has a couple of inoffensive titles in the bank but February’s purchase and the leaked (amazingly prosaic) Amazon controller image has really fired up interest in its foray into the gaming space. The Double Helix acquisition may indeed bring some sorely needed talent and IP to Amazon but whether or not this will result in the company becoming a real player in the industry is anyone’s guess.

The reality is that, other than Strider – one of the more acceptable next-gen games so far – Double Helix hasn’t really set the world alight with its offerings. Its games portfolio isn’t bad but nor has it been making any great waves. So it’s a mystery what might have been impressive or exciting enough, either in terms of concepts or creators, for Amazon to cough up an undisclosed amount (probably in the tens of millions) to buy them outright.

Amazon has been notably quiet when it comes to stating what exactly it wants to be in the world of gaming. The studio says that its focus is on “creating innovative, fun and well-crafted games” but the reality has been somewhat lacking. Does Amazon want to be a cheap, cheerful mobile game maker? An inspiring indie developer like Valve? An innovator like Nintendo? A solid, mainstream, triple-A wielder like Activision? Are they just hedging their bets with a gaming studio, but haven’t the faintest idea what to do with it? Entirely possible, but let’s hope for the best.

As for the many rumours of an Amazon gaming console, it looks like this year might finally see an actual product hitting the online shelves. According to TechCrunch however, rather than launch a traditional boxy console, Amazon is instead all set to release a device the size of a USB stick that can stream games, music and video across the net (and through your Amazon Prime account) straight to your television.

If this is the case, then Amazon is probably looking at gaming as part and parcel of a much larger effort being made by brands the world over to get their online services front and centre on our TV screens. Sony, Microsoft and Apple have already staked a claim with the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Apple TV, so it’s reasonable to assume that Amazon might be looking to move into our living rooms too.

Ultimately though, Amazon’s advantage isn’t really its products (games or otherwise), its advantage is in its infrastructure. In the race to build a near-instant, intuitive service for delivering all the random stuff you order online, Amazon is leagues ahead. Nonetheless, 2014 looks set to be an interesting year.