Amazon – famed for its stranglehold on the online retail space – is aiming to make a splash in the gaming world. The road to rubbing shoulders with big-name developers who’ve been in the game for over three decades has been a bumpy one so far.
To date, Amazon’s strategy consists of throwing the spoils of its retail dominance at two major AAA titles – Crucible and New World. In recent weeks, those plans have unfurled in curious fashion, not least in Crucible’s case.
In what was a rare move, Amazon ‘un-released’ the free-to-play team-based shooter last month – the game is returning to closed beta. Back to the drawing board for the shooter with an eye on ‘providing the best possible experience for our players as we continue to make the game better’ as Amazon Games Studios subsidiary and Crucible developer Relentless Studios explains.
Why? A devastatingly low player base and lukewarm critical response. And more tellingly, Twitch viewership – contemporary gaming’s most readily available metric of success – barely in the double digits. Crucible flopped. Hard.
The prospects for New World, the other tentpole title of Amazon’s two-pronged gaming debut, were markedly better until the latest news from Amazon Game Studios’ Orange Country development team.
Studio director Rich Lawrence announced that the MMO’s release is being delayed once again following an initial pandemic-linked release date rejig.
Amazon is pushing New World’s scheduled Aug. 25 launch to Spring 2021. Lawrence explains in an upbeat dev diary the reason behind the decision , citing a content offering erring on the lighter side – players want more of the game based on feedback from the New World alpha.
We want our players to feel completely immersed in the game, and know that our studio stands for quality and lasting gameplay you can trust — and that means added time to get things where we want them before we fully release.
As a result, we will be changing our launch date – and correspondingly, our final beta test – to spring 2021. We don’t make the decision lightly, and we have urgency about getting the game to you as quickly as possible at the best quality — with some additions that will make the experience even better.
We’re passionate about the game we’ve been making and want to add more features and content before we share it with a wider audience.
New World is an ambitious project, and not least because of the genre Amazon is tackling. MMO’s heyday dates back well over a decade to the mid-2000s; the market now saturated with as many legacy behemoths of the ilk of World of Warcraft as ill-advised newcomers. Calling New World uninspired is a fair assessment and a familiar feature list attests to that. The official web site reads like those of countless other MMOs .
Nevertheless, Amazon appears convinced its take on the established formula of chucking droves of players into a fantasy sandbox presents enough to satisfy jaded genre veterans.
There may be some cosmic justice to Bezos’ ultra-corp stumbling to pierce into gaming, notably after countless reports and testimonials of inhumane warehouse working conditions .
Yet, we have to commend Amazon’s studios swallowing their pride and taking the time to craft better games from the outset even when that means bearing the brunt of the jests that follow ‘un-releasing’ a game. That kind of humility is a rare virtue among publishers and developers with the deepest pockets.
The industry bleeds tales of developers doggedly sticking by mangled games, seemingly cupping their ears to criticism. EA and DICE’s Battlefield V serves as a perfect example of what happens when blindly charging forward with a fundamentally flawed game. The result? A painful near two-year-long downward spiral that saw DICE give up on the game last month .
A running theme nestled in the official announcements concerning both Crucible and New World is a recognition of the value found in player feedback. And, not just hearing, but acting on it with alacrity. If such an approach means we have to wait longer for New World and a revamped permutation of Crucible, it’s a trade-off that strikes me as worthwhile.