Amazon made games a big part of its Fire TV announcement today – it unveiled a dedicated gaming controller, but more importantly, announced the creation of original content for the platform through its Amazon Game Studios. Said studio is rife with talent, too, as BuzzFeed’s business reporter Matt Lynley points out on Twitter.
Kotaku discovered that Amazon Game Studios has hired both key Portal designer Kim Swift and Far Cry 2 creative Clint Hocking. Both have experience at Valve, but also at other major studios including LucasArts. Their game experience runs the gamut, but focuses a lot on more core gamer titles including Splinter Cell, Left 4 Dead and the Far Cry series, as mentioned.
That’s significant because Amazon looks to be trying to do the splits with its gaming ambitions, so to speak, with one foot firmly in the mobile/casual realm, and the other leg extended into the more hardcore, dedicated gaming market. Its Fire TV hardware is a more graphically capable beast than other streaming set top boxes currently available, and on stage at its introduction, Amazon even took some potshots at the home console gaming monoliths, Microsoft and Sony.
But can Amazon really contend with the top contenders in gaming? The Fire TV is powerful relative to Apple TV, but it’s no contest when it comes to the PS4 or Xbox One. Still, software can trump specs, as we’ve seen time and time again in the smartphone and tablet race, so Amazon Game Studios might have a shot at building software that transcends processor limitations.
Who else is on board? A cursory search by Lynley revealed that Amazon Game Studios includes talent from Microsoft, EA, Activision, Zynga, SCEA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Blizzard, Naughty Dog, Konami, Square Enix, Capcom, Bungie, Sega, Popcap Games, Apple and more. Employees at Amazon’s game dev studio have experience building things as varied as the sci-fi TV tie-in MMO Defiance, to the Candy Crush predecessor and former casual king Bejeweled.
The early previews Amazon showed off its in-house games, like Halo-style Sev Zero, were promising, and there’s probably a lot more coming given the number of employees involved in the project and Amazon’s emphasis on gaming in its Fire TV keynote. There’s definitely room for someone to own the middle ground between core and casual gaming, and that looks to be exactly what Amazon is attempting with the Fire TV and Amazon Game Studios.