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How Amazon is preparing game developers for its microconsole
How Amazon is preparing game developers for its microconsole Exclusive
September 19, 2013 | By Mike Rose

September 19, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    31 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



It's one of the game industry's worst-kept secrets that video game microconsoles are coming from multiple big-name companies in the near future. Gamasutra has today learned details about how game developers are being courted for Amazon's upcoming living room device.

As we've heard rumored before, Amazon is working alongside Qualcomm to deliver a TV-centric, OTT set-top box that will offer the Amazon App Store through your television, allowing users to access Android games, video and music.

According to a trusted source close to the project, the team behind the device is mainly talking to game developers in the U.S. at the moment, although it is also reaching out to a handful of other game developers in other parts of the world too.

The idea is to pull in game developers to build as rich an ecosystem for the device as possible. The company is aiming high-end with its tech, and hopes this combination of sophisticated hardware and large developer base will be able to challenge Google's own similar device that is also on the way.

This all-in-one device isn't the only goal, however. Amazon's long-term plan is to bring as many developers over to Amazon products as possible -- for example, the next Kindle will most likely also support game controllers, and act as an extension for the Amazon box.

How can game developers climb aboard?

Amazon has already been talking to game developers, although it has been tight-lipped when it comes to mentioning an actual device, instead sending out SDKs that do not specifically mention a box.

Rather, the company has been telling developers that it would be a very good idea to add gamepad support to their games. Muffin Knight developer Angry Mob Games, for example, has received such a suggestion from the company.

In other words, those developers who are interested in getting their Android games on the Amazon device should make sure to add gamepad support as soon as possible.

Notably, most of the game developers that Gamasutra talked to regarding the Amazon device were keen to get their games on it, although one or two said they will be happier to take the "wait and see" approach.

Shadowgun studio Madfinger even went a step further, noting that its Amazon App Store sales have been "quite low" to date, and that it will not be supporting Amazon anymore.

Amazon will no doubt be looking to unveil and release its own game device before Google can get out of the gate, and is currently gunning for a Q4 2013 release -- our source expects the device to release pre-Christmas 2013, although they could not be sure of this.

What's for certain is that the Android microconsole ecosystem is about to explode. With the Ouya, GameStick, Nvidia Shield, Google's upcoming device to contend with (even the non-Android PS Vita TV), the microconsole race is about to heat up in a big way -- and it can only be good news for game developers.


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Comments


Harry Fields
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Here's hoping they make it a good bit more potent than Ouya. Amazon is a behemoth and I think they can better fill the niche Ouya is trying to. But they gotta' give hardware than can at least best the outgoing gen (if only to give devs options), while running in 1080p. It doesn't need a 7k series AMD GPU, but something better than what's in a Kindle.

John Owens
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Is there a niche though?

Mobile games work because they suit the platform and form. I don't think very many of them work if they're put on the big screen.

Plus most gamers who play on the big screen aren't the same audience that pay on mobile which is closer to the Facebook audience.

Basically I can't see a market for any of these micro consoles as no one is going to develop a proper PC or console quality game for them without there first being a huge market to sell to which won't come if all there is; is mobile and indie games.

Amazon would have to invest in quality content and they're just not going to do that. If this was viable Apple would have done it years ago.

Phil Maxey
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In 10 years time Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo might not be the "Big 3", but instead "Amazon, Apple and Google".

Ian Fisch
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To get a userbase big enough for developers to be interested, you have to spend a MASSIVE amount of money.

Without interested developers, no one will buy your console.

In other words, launching a console is not something you can dip your feet in. It's all or nothing.

Phil Maxey
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The 3 companies I mentioned have the means to make it happen, it's just a question of whether they want to or not. At some point there's going to be a company that dominates mobile and the living room, and I would suggest it's easier to go from mobile to the living room rather than the vice versa.

In the past you had mobile, and you had desktop/console, you had distinct platforms because of the technologies involved to make games on each of them. That's changed to the point where soon the technology will not matter anymore, it will just be about the content.

I suspect soon mobile developers will not just have to contend with different screen sizes, but also their games working with a controller. Likewise console dev's will have to contend with their games working on small screens and touch. All the boundaries will fall away to just leave the "game".

And at that point it's all about who owns the biggest App store.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Ian Fisch - 3DO is proof of that. Even the original Playstation nearly didn't make it, but Final Fantasy VII changed that, so that further proves your point about interested developers.

Kujel s
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I very interested in the Amazon Box but I hope it, anlong with google, doesn't crush the Ouya. They've made mistakes and maybe they need new leadership but they're trying and were the ones who created the microconsole market in the first place.

Scott Lavigne
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Having a good idea doesn't mean you have a good product. I'd hate to see what the market would look like if we gave our support to well-intended parties instead of well-proven ones.

TC Weidner
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I still dont get it. Creating art design and game design that works on small screens with limited on screen controls is TOTALLY different than designing for large TV screens with full game pads. Android games are made for small mobile screens, ( true the screen definition is getting better) it just doesnt translate over easily or well to 70" Tvs. This is what I dont think these manufacturers get.
Sure perhaps developers will skip the gazillion mobile users and just design for these niche home TV android devices, but ummm, but why would they?

Phil Maxey
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The point is, is that it's not about mobile or large screen screens, this is what's changed over the past 10 years. Now and going forward it's just going to be about gaming content on any and every device, the gate keepers to that content will be the App store owners. So everyone's going to try to position their own App store as the one that most people use. Amazon and Apple are the 2 front runners in this respect, even though Apple hasn't entered the race yet, so to speak.

Micah Betts
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The point of these isn't to play mobile games on your TV, it's to open a new platform for developers to get their games on a TV with a gamepad. Whether your game is suitable for both mobile and micro-console is another matter entirely.

If enough of these consoles penetrate the market we are talking a similar audience size to that of the mobile space (every TV in the world), in addition to possibly being playable on tablets and phones too if the game is built for it.

Scott Lavigne
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The point is to subvert the current console system by taking advantage of the fact that everyone already has phones and is exposed to a large marketplace for those. Hijack the Android or Apple app stores for promotion and the fact that the games you already own can be played on your TV (however they adapt them), with maybe games dedicated for whichever microconsole(s) prove viable in the next several years.

TC Weidner
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why would I want to play my phone game on my 70 inch TV?

Phil Maxey
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You mean in regards to phone games being designed for touch? I grew up playing games solely on the TV, most of which looked exactly like todays mobile games :)

TC Weidner
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unless the time continuum changes, Amazon wont be competing verus intellivision, it will be competing against xbox one and PS4 with there 10 gb games, incredible graphics, detailed stories, and surround sound musical scores. :P

Dane MacMahon
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While there is a sect of gamers that prioritize that stuff I think Minecraft, WoW and many others show you can have a mega-hit on lower end hardware.

If one of these micro insoles has a few great games in it that capture people they could revolutionize the industry.

TC Weidner
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Dane- there was nothing minor about the hardware needed to run Wow when it came out. I alpha tested the thing. Minecraft still cant run fully on android.

Again why would someone pay for a under powered, weak home console system?

Dane MacMahon
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Because it has great exclusive games on it.

TC Weidner
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exclusive games on it? they are going to be android games which are already playable on everything

Dane MacMahon
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Amazon is putting a lot of time and money into making exclusive games for their device. There have been a ton of articles on this. I imagine Google is doing something similar.

At the end of the day people buy machines to play games. You're asking why they would choose the Amazon box over a PS4. My reply: exclusive games, games which appeal to a different demo, lower cost, etc. There are tons of reasons.

You are focused on graphical fidelity but not all gamers are.

TC Weidner
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no Im focused on quality of the experience. Shoving the mobile game experience into the living room is a waste of time if you ask me.

As for all these incredible exclusive to the living room only android experiences, sorry, I see nothing to back up your assertions.

But I guess in a few years we will see,



http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/162077-ouya-game-sales-figures-
released-it-doesnt-look-good-for-android-console-gaming

Elwood Blues
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@TC Weidner, you keep confusing Android and Android-based microconsoles with mobile. Granted, to date, Android has mostly been used on mobile devices. The key is recognizing that a microconsole is not a mobile device. It's a microconsole. A micro console. It has standard hardware, it connects to a TV, and it has standard gamepads.

When you stop expecting to find a "mobile game experience" on a microconsole, you'll realize why your statement, "why would I want to play my phone game on my 70 inch TV," is nonsensical.

The OUYA, for example, is a console. It delivers a console experience. It's a different console experience from Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo products. It's at a different price point with different capabilities and a different approach to developer recruitment. You may not be part of their target audience. I am.

I'm mostly a PC gamer and hobbyist dev, so the things I value in a *console* are things like low cost of ownership, single function, ease of development, and a library of good local multiplayer games.

As for exclusives, I can only speak to the OUYA. I *love* Towerfall and No Brakes Valet, and I'm quite looking forward to That Dragon, Cancer. The Little Crane That Could is a pretty entertaining cross between a heavy equipment sim and a physics puzzle game. But this is stuff you'll read in any OUYA review.

Joe E
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*edited*

Nathan Mates
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I think it's a case of Amazon wanting to make a media player box (e.g. Boxee-like) for people to cheaply/quickly hook up to any Amazon streaming video -- or even subsidize the hardware and make it up on video sales. Once you have such a box, adding in support for low-end games isn't that hard; I think Amazon is trying to add games to a media player versus Ouya's game player that happens to play some media.

I've already got a Blu-ray player w/ Wifi and a 7+ year old laptop connected to my TV; both can connect to Amazon streaming video just fine. (Plus plenty of consoles that don't happen to speak Amazon streaming.) Amazon would have to develop something amazing for me to consider adding this to my living room.

Jonathan Murphy
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Many companies like Amazon see a chance to jump in. Due to dispersed consumer spending there might not be a big three next gen. Only a big two. It's happened before, and those were good times.

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo need FULL B/C to drown out their competitors. I've moved to PC and may stay there. Because I can keep those games forever. A back catalog keeps new entrants away. Who wants an Ouya when you can play FF1-15 on a next gen console?

Matías Goldberg
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Is no one going to say anything about Amazon's history of bad reputation towards indies?
I think I missed something

wes bogdan
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It's ALL about who's the most hungry if games like shadow fall are on consoles and indie- PS one are on micro consoles and I were Sony,ms or ninty I'd make sure you can also use it on real console's as well.

Without their own studio's making exclusives the mc will need to fork over cash for timed exclusives which would end up cutting them off at the knees attacking yourself damaging sales of bigger games like halo,,cod,borderlands etc.

Jay Anne
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Two words: Steam. Get on that, Amazon.

Bernice Eker
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So many microconsoles hitting the market. Just thinking out loud but what if Microsoft name their console Microconsole? All of their advertising would be done for them! Probably worth a 'what if' article by you guys.

Akeem Adkins
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I'm going to be honest. I think Amazon making a game device is them going from 1 to 100. I don't think it's a good idea, but I would love for them to prove me wrong. I'm interested to see how this turns out.

Rafael Duarte
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Getting involve more companies its good for us
To honest we need a cheap game console and a cheap game for the mass it's everybody desicion of course for the big screen and portable. No my smartphone.
We know those micro console for google and amazon it's money business.
Amazon good idea Qualcomm CPU, approaching to game developers to support gamepad give them incentive , I think they are more that can be add to the system, I have some in mind like arm processor for low cost and power efficiency, portable, and more can be add it.


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