Amazon has finally planted its own flag in the video game console industry with the release of the $99 Amazon Fire TV. This isn’t just another affordable streaming device like the Apple TV or Roku. Amazon is going all in to compete with Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony for gaming console market share with its Android-based gaming device.
The primary attraction for the Fire TV is the ability to stream music, sports, television shows and movies through a plethora of services like Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora or WatchESPN. But games have been a focus for Amazon since the rumors of its own set-top box began circling. Back in February, Amazon shook up the industry by purchasing Double Helix Games, a game development studio recently responsible for the surprisingly good “Killer Instinct” on Xbox One.
Amazon also scored a coup as “Portal” designer Kim Swift and “Far Cry 2” creative director Clint Hocking were hired on at Amazon Game Studios.
“Sev Zero,” a sci-fi shooter, is the Fire TV’s first exclusive title developed by Amazon Game Studios. The $7 game comes free with the Fire TV controller. It might have served Amazon better to include the $40 controller with the Fire TV, but combined the package is half the going rate of the Wii U, and a third or less of the cost of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Amazon’s deep pockets help separate it from other microconsole devices like the floundering Ouya, also priced at $99. The Ouya has failed to gain momentum in the fiercely competitive gaming console industry thanks to its lack of top-tier games. The most popular and critically acclaimed exclusive on Ouya, “Towerfall,” recently released on PS4.
Amazon has managed to secure some big name titles to push the Fire TV as a full-featured gaming console. The Fire TV offers “Minecraft,” “The Walking Dead” and “Asphalt 8: Airborne,” along with games published by 2K Games, Disney, Double Fine Productions, Electronic Arts, Sega and Ubisoft. Amazon’s goal is to have thousands of games within a month of the Fire TV’s launch.
How does this affect the traditional video game console market? Wired believes the Fire TV has “pushed game consoles one stop closer to death.” Industry pundits have predicted doom and gloom for consoles thanks to mobile luring children and casual gamers away and strikingly soft sales of the Wii U. While the Fire TV may dominate the microconsole market, time will only tell the effect it will have on console sales.
The PS4 is dominating next-generation console sales, but both it and the Xbox One are selling in record numbers. Sony doesn’t expect to meet demand for PS4 consoles until at least the summer. They have committed to affordable indie games, many of which could also find a home on Amazon’s Fire TV, but will likely be drowned out by the cheap or free gaming dregs. There will always be a need for top tier AAA game development. For every 10 surprise indie hits, publishers and gamers still want the billion-dollar franchises like “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto.”
Amazon believes so much in the Fire TV that they’re willing to dig deep to make it a legitimate gaming device. As enticing as the pricing may be and the moves they are making, which are all the right ones at the moment, it still won’t put the final nail in the coffin of the high-end video game consoles.
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