07/04/2021 - LOUISE SHORTHOUSE
Amazon Luna hits open access for US Fire TV users, boosting addressable audience by millions

Previously invite-only, Amazon’s cloud gaming offering, Amazon Luna, became available to all Fire TV users in the US in late February. The service is still in early access, and currently consists of two games “channels”. There is a 7-day free trial to the Luna+ channel – Amazon’s own - after which subscriptions renew at $5.99 per month. Consumers can also subscribe to the Ubisoft+ channel at the beta price of $14.99 per month, and no Luna+ subscription is required for this.

There are more than 22 million active Fire TV users in the US, and with the promise of a week-long free trial and the invitation barrier removed, Luna will have seen a spike in uptake in Q1 2021. This will also allow Amazon to measure the appeal of the service to a broader audience and is one in a series of tentative steps towards a full launch. Ampere anticipates Luna will come to Western Europe, in limited access, by the end of this year.

The Luna offering is still nascent, and currently dwarfed by cloud gaming competitors

Amazon Luna is still in its very early stages, as evidenced by its diminutive catalogue. As of February 2021, PlayStation Now boasts a library almost 12 times the size, whilst Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s catalogue has more than five times as many available games. The 76 titles offered by Luna do not include those accessed via Ubisoft+, as this is a separate subscription.

Ampere data indicates that catalogue overlap between Amazon Luna and competitor cloud gaming services PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is minimal, with only two games available across all three: Team17’s Overcooked! 2 and Focus Home Interactive’s The Surge 2. Unique content helps to differentiate a subscription service, but this is typically achieved via the provision of historic and current first-party titles – as seen with PlayStation Now - or lesser-known indie games.

The genre make-up of Amazon Luna, as of March 2021, skews more heavily towards platformers and puzzle games than the PlayStation and Xbox services, which themselves have a far greater number of shooters and racing titles. This is reflective of the large amount of indie content available on Luna which can, of course, be supplemented by the more contemporary blockbusters provided through the Ubisoft+ channel.

Twitch integration is a boon, but can Amazon deliver on first-party content?

Amazon has a colossal asset in the form of the premier games live-streaming platform, Twitch. Upon loading up the page for a specific title, the user can see streamers who are playing that game live on Twitch. Users are also able to go from watching Twitch to instantly playing. These are early signs of what may be to come in terms of Twitch integration, and we can also expect to see partnerships with prolific streamers in order to showcase the Luna technology.

Google recently capitulated in its quest for first-party content for Stadia, but Amazon Game Studios still has games in the pipeline – despite the failure of its first major original title, hero shooter Crucible. The company is currently investing in its massively multiplayer online (MMO) game New World, which was recently delayed until August 2021. MMOs are high stakes, but potentially high reward: they demand a vast number of resources and on-going support, but successful ones (e.g. World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV) can nurture dedicated, enduring fanbases. The path to a thriving and profitable MMO is littered with multiple, high-profile failures. This means that Amazon’s success in this arena could truly cement it as a serious and capable games creator.

Departure of vice president mirrors Stadia, but is not necessarily a bad omen

It has been revealed that Amazon’s head of Fire TV, Kindle and more recently, Luna, has left the company. This follows the notable departure of Stadia Games and Entertainment vice president Jade Raymond from Google, which accompanied news that the company was shuttering its internal games development studios.

Whilst there was a sense of deterioration around the events at Google Stadia, the situation at Amazon Luna seems different. Thus far, there have been no public or sizable missteps with the Luna project – likely given its still-early stages - or any foundation for the belief Marc Whitten left Amazon due to the inadequacy of the service.



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