Amazon is a tech giant with diverse interests: e-commerce, tablets, digital publishing, streaming media, television-show production, and—pending FAA approval—small drones.
Such a wide-ranging portfolio would satisfy most tech firms; but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos so fears that some rival will disrupt his business (“I would love for it to be after I’m dead,” he told Charlie Rose in a 2013 interview), he puts constant pressure on his people to keep Amazon expanding into new territories.
A more prominent role in video-game development could prove the latest territory on Amazon’s wish list. Yes, there’s already Amazon Game Studios, which produces smaller games such as “Air Patriots” (a tower-defense title), but that evidently wasn’t enough—Amazon has acquired Double Helix, most notably the developer behind “Killer Instinct” and other big-action games for PCs and consoles.
Amazon confirmed the deal to multiple media outlets, suggesting that it would use Double Helix’s developers and intellectual property “as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.”
Why would Amazon want to bulk out its game-creation abilities? Rumors have floated for the past couple weeks (hat tips to Gamespot and Polygon) that the company is hard at work on an Android-based gaming console that will retail for below $300. Over the past year, it’s also hired gaming luminaries such as “Halo” author Eric Nylund, which it probably wouldn’t have done without something big—or at least interesting—in the works.
Amazon would doubtlessly position such a device (if it actually becomes a reality) as the low-cost alternative to Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. But even the cheapest console won’t sell without some killer games to attract customers—and that’s where Double Helix might come in.
That strategy worked out well for Amazon before, when it launched the Kindle Fire tablet at a price well below that of Apple’s iPad. Although the Kindle Fire was basically a portable vending machine for Amazon’s streaming video and e-products, it nonetheless sold in healthy numbers, easily outpacing the sales rate of most other Android-based tablets on the market. With Nintendo flagging, there’s potentially an opening for a third console ecosystem to take hold—and Amazon might be the one to take it.
Image: Double Helix