Amazon’s Luna service (currently in closed beta) represents the conglomerate’s attempt at entering the “Netflix of games” race against stiff and varied competition (See “The Cloud Gaming Wars: Each Platform Compared” for a great primer on cloud gaming and a comparison of the major players in the space). Will Luna hit the ground running, or will it trip and fall off the starting block? Let’s weigh the promise against the facts, and try to determine how stoked we should be about Luna, shall we?
Amazon has announced that Luna will be available on launch for PC, Mac, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS (as a “progressive web app”, presumably to avoid paying Apple’s platform fees) and will be coming to Android “shortly after” launch. The wide array of supported platforms means Amazon is going head-to-head against Google Stadia, Xbox Game Streaming (currently available via Game Pass Ultimate and only on Android, but all of that will be changing soon) and a number of others who have a considerable head start.
Luna’s release date remains unknown but we should probably expect to see the beta expand in the near future, if nothing else. Sooner is better, but the fact that none of the present services have managed to really nail the streaming formula means Amazon has a chance to win a lot of hearts and minds if they have a great launch – and they’d be wise to take as long as is needed before throwing the doors open to the public.
Signing up during the early access period and being accepted into the closed beta means access to one tier of membership at $5.99/mo – which Amazon says will increase at launch. The service will have optional “channels” that can be added for an additional monthly fee, the first of which is “Ubisoft +” which will grant streaming access to a large chunk of the publisher’s back catalog as well as day-one access to all new releases moving forward. It’s not known if other streaming services will have access to some of these new titles at launch, or if they’ll be timed exclusives – but it’s safe to say that this has potential to be a big selling point for Luna and something the industry will be watching very closely.
With over 50 games currently available and a promise to double that by the time the dust settles, it’s probably safe to assume that Luna is shaping up to launch with a price structure that is competitive with other streaming services, and won’t amaze or offend with their value proposition.
The full requirements are available on the Luna landing page, but it should be sufficient to say that they are in line with the other big streaming services. Amazon does have a dedicated Luna controller, but there doesn’t seem to be any especially good reason to buy one if you already have an Xbox stick or standard mouse and keyboard lying around.
What is required of the players in order to ensure a smooth game streaming experience is on the verge of becoming standardized at this point – and whether or not the top-tier experiences work for you with regards to performance (especially latency) is down to personal standards.
Amazon’s deal with Ubisoft aside, Luna promises to have 100+ games available at launch for subscribers. While there are currently no games exclusive to the platform, Amazon does own a few studios and it’s hard to imagine they won’t leverage titles such as New World to draw gamers to the burgeoning service that is Luna. Whether those games become platform exclusives or merely stream exclusives from the service (and remain available for download/purchase elsewhere) remains to be seen, but it would boggle minds if Amazon-published titles are available for streaming on Xbox Game Pass, Stadia or other streaming services in the future.
That said, it’s hard to say if any of Amazon’s in-house titles will have the sort of appeal needed in order to qualify as killer apps, but they may not need one if the promised Twitch integration is sufficiently compelling. The first Luna/Twitch crossover feature will allow subscribers to hop directly into a game a streamer is playing; this is far from “killer app” territory, but it does show that Amazon is trying to do interesting things in order to stand out and add unique value to their existing platforms and services.
It is hard to imagine a future in which Amazon Luna is a massive failure or a massive success. Luna’s fate will hinge on Amazon’s ability to provide access to games that other streaming services don’t, while maintaining a technically sound backend and offering a solid value proposition on the front end. That may sound like a lot to juggle, but Amazon clearly has the resources to make it look easy.
On the flipside it’s important to remember that Amazon is pragmatic, at the end of the day, and they know when to cut their losses on a project that is bleeding money. The most recent, and relevant example of said pragmatism being the now-cancelled Relentless Studios’ “Crucible”, a game that Amazon invested countless millions of dollars and many years of development into – only to shut down the project shortly after opening the beta to a lukewarm reception.
The jury is still out, but the tentative answer to the question “Should We Be Excited for Luna?” is “Maybe a Little Bit.”