Last week Amazon lifted the lid on Fire TV– its answer to Apple TV and Chromecast, albeit with the ability to play games.
We're no stranger to the debate as to whether gamers want to play mobile games on TV here on PocketGamer.biz, but there is a question as to just how important games are to Amazon: it's hiring talent, yes, but the focus of Fire TV very much seems to be on film and TV platforms.
So, we asked the Mavens:
From the mobile industry's perspective, is Amazon's Fire TVa game changer?
A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.
A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.
He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.
Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.
I think the important point is not the device, but more that it symbolises Amazon's long term desire to get into the business.
Amazon is the most impressive company of our generation, and it's into making long-term, strategic plays into areas it knows are, or will be, hugely important.
Bear in mind that what started as a clunky online bookshop for dialup early adopters has grown, in less than 20 years, into a giant 'owning' not just books, but pretty much all online shopping now - by focusing on customer service first. Amazon is certainly the only online retailer I will pay a premium to order from.
At the same time, it has led the way in cloud services and eBooks, become a major player in tablets, and are now serious contenders in digital film, TV and music. Nobody does customer service, or understands its customers, like Amazon does.
With all that in mind, I think we need to look not at what the Fire TV offers now, but where Amazon might be with TV and gaming a decade from now. If it had focused on games first, it would have shipped a controller with the Fire TV as standard. That it hasn't really suggests that games won't become a major component of its offering in the short term.
But, as Amazon builds Prime Instant Video as the major competitor to Netflix (and, as a Prime subscriber, I'm now question whether I should cancel Netflix since I don't really need both services), and more and more consumers switch from broadcast to on-demand TV usage, Amazon owning that TV experience will definitely lead to it becoming a viable gaming platform.
What's very clear is that, outside of the core gaming audience (people who actually care enough about games to buy machines to play them or read articles about them), most people are not interested enough in games to make efforts to seek them out. That's not to say they won't play them - if they're freely and conveniently available - as the mobile market has shown.
Other Android consoles have made the mistake of assuming that people will buy a machine specifically to play lower-end games, when clearly the games enthusiasts already have better offerings in their homes. As with mobile, what Amazon will show, in the long term, is that, if there's a button you can press to be playing games, immediately, even 'non-gamers' will happily play.
The mistake some game creators are likely to make is to think of the Fire TV as an alternative to Xbox or Steam, at least in the short term. My suspicion is that this is not a place for AAA style games, nor, sadly, for the more interesting/arthouse indie games. These overlapping markets already serve their hobbyist audience well.
What is likely to succeed is the more accessible, casual titles we see doing well on mobile. What will be interesting, though, will be to see what products emerge, in time, which can successfully operate a long-term F2P model using a console controller interface.
Navigating a complicated meta game without a mouse or touchscreen could prove a difficult challenge for game designers.
P.S. Whatever I say above, Minecraft will do really well on it. Because.
I agree with Harry on this one. Amazon is a very impressive company, and it has already put its mark on a range of diverse businesses.
Fire TV is a perfect addition to the range of consumer content services Amazon already offer. Much more than "a box that will run random Android stuff" or consume random internet services, this is a box that complements a range of managed services, with an existing audience. That makes a big difference.
Games on Fire TV may be a footnote, but it's worth remembering iPhone launched without the App Store.Thomas Nielson
I don't expect Fire TV will have a big impact on games on the short term. The odds are against that. Eyeballs are generally moving away from the big screen to portable screens. A large part of the games industry (that serve this audience) work with products that are touch based rather than controller-based, which is going to be a practical annoyance for anyone with cross-platform ambitions.
However, in the longer term, I think there's some very interesting potential here – Amazon is expanding on a solid ecosystem. It has great content (wasn't such a bad idea to build an Appstore for Android after all), a trusted system for transactions (where would Google Play be today if it had that?) and multiple devices (pads and now TV).
In addition, the fact that Amazon is also investing in content tells me that it wants to make sure it does things right.
It's entirely possible that it could become a profitable channel for developers who do have suitable titles, so it will be very interesting to see how well the box is received by end-users.
Oh and by the way, [editor-at-large] Jon's article the other day pointed out how games on the Fire TV was a footnote rather than an important part of the offering. It's worth remembering how the iPhone launched without the App Store.
Why is it missing HBO? The darn box can do everything else!
Amazon has a brief history of not being the first at pushing out new tech or software, but doing a damn fine job of crafting a nice product at a price point that is widely acceptable by many households. The first mover advantage in technology and software is often risky.
There are a lot of unknowns that are soon realised shortly after the launch, and it is typically to late to repair them in the fast moving technology ecosphere.
Amazon has been able to study what went right and wrong with the similar products that have launched over the past four years and can now capitalise on doing them correctly.
Amazon is one of the most respected companies out there. We at HandyGames are happy to once be again a first mover.
With a nice portfolio of four titles we started on day one and we will bring more optimised titles over to Amazon Fire TV in the next weeks.
OUYA and others were just the beginning of the TV game (r)evolution. I am very sure that the battle for the living room has just started.
Will it change anything? I think it already has. Amazon is both allowing and pushing games on Amazon Fire TV. This opens another great consumer market for developers. At launch of the Fire TV you saw again just which agile developers and publishers are ready for the next battlefield - the big screen. Developers need to understand that a pure mobile strategy is not working anymore.
Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.
As usual, Chris has a magical ability to get a first mover advantage by being willing to take a risk on new (and old platforms).
This move by Amazon is absolutely sensible and given the rebranding of Lovefilm to Amazon Prime Instant there is probably no better positioned company to make this move.
For me the introduction of the microconsole (I still prefer the term unconsole) last year with the spotted success of OUYA and Gamestick (and others) showed that there is a consumer and business gap which has yet to be fully satisfied.
This reminds me of the Diamond Rio, which offered digital music and inspired Apple to launch the original iPod, knocking the slow moving leviathan of Sony Walkman off its previously unchallenged position.
The reality is these battles aren't won by superior tech but by consumer experience. Amazon already has strong digital retailing experience with its tablet devices and it has multiple revenue streams built off pre-existing retail accounts. It can afford for this device to be a loss-leader in itself in order to get it into the hands of users. Once there it can deliver a long-tail of goods and services including games.
The reality is these battles aren't won by superior tech but by consumer experience.Oscar Clark
I didn't get a chance to read the full specs but we shouldn't assume that the because this is an Android device that it has to compete with a PS4 or Xbox One for attention (hence why I prefer the term unconsole). It will complement such experiences and also be an ideal streaming device for second TVs as well as offering highly playable content.
More and more mobile games are being designed with the flexibility to translate to different modes of use. Not just being suitable for mobile or tablet, but also for larger screens. Increasingly we will see games that take advantage of the opportunity of shared screens (i.e. our living room TV) too.
Then what happens when we add cloud support? Streamed gameplay from a server doesn't need huge local device performance to deliver quality games and what happens when devs start to be clever e.g. streaming background images as video textures whilst only rendering the avatars and collision layers to ensure twitch performance?
I'm not saying Amazon has the right device at the right time; but its definitely has the potential to be a firestarter.
I think I'm looking at this from a completely different perspective. It's not a question of whether people will buy Fire TV or not – they will. Amazon is a trusted brand.
For me it's more about whether this has any major impact on the mobile scene, and I don't think it does.
I don't think the kind of people who buy Fire TV will want to play a Halo knock-off on it – those kind of gamers will have a PS4 or Xbox One. I could, however, see my mother buying a platform like this to play casual games.
Problem is, most of the casual games that kind of audience are into – whether Candy Crush or something similar – are the type of games you play while watching the TV, not on it.
And I think this is why Apple is yet to play its card: 90 percent of mobile games either simply don't work well with a control pad, or just aren't suited for TV play. People are misunderstanding the use of these devices.
The 'battle for the living room' was fought a long time ago. iPad won it.