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Can Amazon Luna Succeed Where Google Stadia Failed?

Last Updated September 25, 2020 11:42 AM
Thomas Bardwell
Last Updated September 25, 2020 11:42 AM
  • Amazon has revealed its new cloud gaming service called Luna.
  • Subscribers can access a growing library of games through channels, including one dedicated to publisher Ubisoft, starting at $5.99 a month.
  • Luna has all the cards in hand to deliver on the squandered promise of Google Stadia.

Amazon has officially announced that it is jumping into the cloud gaming game  with a new service dubbed Luna.

Previously code-named Tempo and underpinned by Amazon’s extensive network of AWS data centers, Luna will be available via an early access phase to US residents with support for PC, Mac, Fire TV, iPhone, and iPad.

With the cautionary tale of Stadia’s botched launch and steady decline into irrelevance, the question is whether Amazon can learn from Google’s mistakes and position itself as a viable, long-term player in the nascent cloud gaming space.

The first signs are encouraging.

Luna’s controller takes a familiar form. | Source: Amazon

Luna Coveting the Netflix of Games Crown

Luna is adopting a Netflix-style approach, granting unlimited access to a library of games bundled into channels for a fixed monthly.

As is stands, Amazon is offering the Luna Plus channel for $5.99 a month, through which subscribers can stream up to 1080p/60fps (4K coming soon for select titles) on two devices simultaneously. This is an introductory price limited to early access, and will likely dart higher after the Luna leaves early access.

According to Amazon, the Luna Plus channel will feature over 100 games. A dedicated Ubisoft channel is also on the card, though we don’t yet know how much Amazon plans to charge.

In contrast, Stadia requires users to buy games individually, often at a price significantly higher than on other platforms. The basic subscription tier is free, but offers little other than an account, while the $10/month Pro tier grants a somewhat underwhelming rotating list of free games every month.

Luna’s simplicity can’t be understated; Amazon intends to bridge the gap between choice and a clear, concise model.

Games and Their Potential

As for the games themselves, Luna looks a little on the anemic side and, given its fledgling status, has yet had time to amass a robust library.

Nevertheless, what’s there is promising and includes acclaimed AAA’s like Control and one of last year’s standout AA releases, A Plague Tale: Innocence.

Luna already features a decent selection of games. | Source: Amazon

It’s not entirely on par with Stadia’s increasingly decent spread of games that include Red Dead Redemption 2, PUBG, Marvel’s Avengers, and Hitman 2, as well as confirmed upcoming releases such as Cyberpunk 2077, but once again, this are only available full price. The interest is, however, in Luna’s potential.

Low Bar of Entry

Unlike Stadia, which is more or less, a brand new platform, Luna runs in a Windows environment , meaning it is much easier to integrate support on the developer side.

If a game can run on PC, a jump to Luna requires only minor tweaking rather than a resource-sapping port. Publishers and developers are far more likely to look past initial hesitation about an unproven service with such a low bar of entry. For subscribers, this should translate to a more extensive selection of games.

The prospect of publisher channels, as exemplified by an early deal with Ubisoft, is promising. As well as access to Ubisoft’s back catalog, big-name releases such as the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Far Cry 6 will be available through the channel day one.

If Amazon can successfully coax in other publishers, we could see launch-day availability for the biggest AAA games. Interestingly, Amazon is also eyeing up different channel formats, such as genres.

Publisher channels set Luna apart from the rest. | Source: Amazon

Learning from Google’s Mistakes

It’s still early days for Luna. We’ve yet to see it in action, nor have we seen how it tackles the issue of latency, something that dogged Stadia’s early days.

Nevertheless, even this early in Luna’s life, it seems Amazon has the cards in hands to at least have a fighting chance to deliver on the aura of promise that once existed around Stadia. Google had the right idea but failed in its practical application.

Amazon has the benefit of going second, aided by a well-thought-out model, and the infrastructure to market Luna to its existing million-strong customer base, potentially as another wing to the ever-expanding Amazon Prime.

The real competition will, however, come when Microsoft inevitably pushes out xCloud’s support for PC, at which point, Luna may have to settle for playing second fiddle to Xbox.