That Amazon is providing a game engine that can stitch together so-called triple-A games for PCs, consoles, Xbox, and even VR platforms without charging developers for the service, will certainly make Lumberyard a competitive addition to a field that includes heavyweights like Unity and Unreal Engines. Developers will only pay for access to additional web services, like multiplayer and cloud-based streaming.
The release of Lumberyard will not immediately upend the gaming industry, but it does show that Amazon thinks VR will induce a major shifting of power. All major tech firms are gearing up for what’s expected to be a boom in VR technology. Most of them are planning to compete against each other to manufacture the headgear, and Amazon has its eyes on the marketplace itself.
Google, Apple, and Facebook are all already deeply invested in hardware projects, and Amazon is simply pursuing its so very Amazon-like strategy to control the distribution. The goal for Jeff Bezos is to leverage the company’s size to offer irresistible perks to the people who will be building the VR revolution — the developers. In turn, the gamers will come to Amazon Web Services to pick up the newest games and updates, turn to Twitch to stream, which Amazon bought a year ago for $1 billion, and even have access to multiplayer.
By bringing game development, streaming, multiplayer, and the marketplace for games all under one roof, Amazon aims to become a hub for VR gaming. It’s an ambitious strategy, but Amazon is betting that once the dust settles on the initial revolution, whichever company is on top stands poised to make a ton of money as the industry goes and becomes reliant on accessing the biggest market of gamers.
Amazon did win a patent on a sleek set of VR glasses back in October, but the launch of Lumberyard proves that the company intends to win virtual reality, not just the technology we use to access it. The death of the Amazon Fire smartphone likely convinced Bezos and Amazon’s leadership that they do better as the market itself than any single product.
Jeff Bezos wants Amazon to become iTunes at the advent of digital music or the Netflix of streaming VR games. And like both of those two technologies, Lumberyard offers major appeals to the studios and the indies. As long as developers like the interface and don’t find any hidden Bezos mischief, Amazon may just find itself winning the VR war.