It sure looks like Amazon wants to stream games to your home. No, not the kind of streaming where you watch somebody play games over the internet — Amazon already owns Twitch — but the kind where you can play games without waiting for a download or buying a disc, because they’re actually running on powerful servers that live far away from your house.
That’s the word from The Information, which reports that two independent sources have said Amazon is developing a cloud gaming service which could launch as soon as 2020, and The Verge was able to find some seeming corroboration simply by checking out Amazon’s job listing page — where Amazon is currently hiring at least two engineers in Seattle and California specifically to work on “Cloud Games.”
A third job posting for a “Lead Cross Platform Game Engineer” explicitly says that Amazon has a new game business up its sleeves:
“This is a rare opportunity to take a technical leadership role to shape the foundation of an unannounced AAA games business.”
And though it may be unrelated, a fourth posting is looking for an AI engineer who’ll work with cloud experts to help develop “a never before seen kind of game.”
It makes sense that Amazon would dive into cloud gaming, considering that it’s one of the few gigantic cloud companies that already have the know-how to make it happen — and competitors are already on board. Microsoft announced its xCloud cloud gaming service at E3 last June, which might stream games to a tiny new Xbox, as well as existing consoles, computers and phones, and Google is currently trialing its Project Stream to show that low-end computers can run the latest Assassin’s Creed in a mere web browser.
Mind you, Amazon has been experimenting with cloud gaming for a long time now. Here’s a demo from 2014 of a hybrid Amazon cloud game:
The gigantic crossbow / ballista here is running locally on an Amazon Fire tablet, so that you can aim and fire without lag, while the giant armies are generated by remote servers — because in 2014, tablets didn’t have enough processing power to do that. Take my word for it: this was an impressive demo back then.
Those existing experiments, plus the fact that Amazon already has its own game studio and its own cloud business that sells services to third-party game studios, make it tough to say whether Amazon is seriously pursuing cloud gaming in a big way now. It’s possible something got lost in translation — this might just be another experiment, or even just a hedge against Microsoft and Google if cloud gaming becomes a thing this time around.
But if the report is true, we may soon have a huge battle between internet giants for the future of gaming — along with Sony, which has already been streaming games with its PlayStation Now service for years, EA is trying to build one too, there’s Nvidia’s GeForce Now, and even Nintendo is trying to stream games to the Switch in Japan. Sony absorbed the know-how of the early cloud gaming players, Gaikai and OnLive, in acquisitions years ago.
One last note: infrastructure is important for cloud gaming. You can’t live too far away from a company’s servers, or else a game will lag to the point it’s unplayable. So Amazon, which arguably has more infrastructure in place than a Google or Sony, could easily be the one to watch.
We reached out to Amazon for comment, but haven’t yet gotten a response.