Amazon is serious about conquering the living room: the online retailer has launched Fire TV, a set-top box that not only allows viewers to stream content, but also play games.
That streaming-and-gaming capability makes Amazon a threat to Apple, which rumors suggest is hard at work on an Apple TV capable of doing the same things. In addition, Fire TV puts the screws to other streaming hardware, including Roku and Google’s Chromecast, as well as smaller game consoles such as Ouya (a $99, Android-based device). Much of Amazon’s competitive muscle comes from its willingness to sell hardware for cheap (the Fire TV retails for $99) on the expectation that owners will use it to stream and download digital content from Amazon, including television shows and apps.
If Fire TV proves a success, it could also complicate Microsoft’s attempts to position the Xbox One as the must-have media device for gamers and non-gamers alike. But Amazon doesn’t have an unimpeded road to victory, no matter how many marketing dollars it devotes to its new effort: Despite a concerted effort to bulk up its Amazon Game Studios, the retailer will still need to release a blockbuster game along the lines of Halo or Titanfall if it wants to compete head-to-head against well-established consoles. Compounding matters on that front is the Fire TV’s hardware specs, which include a dedicated GPU and 2GB RAM—more than enough to compete against Apple TV and other set-top boxes, but not nearly enough firepower to match what the Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 can draw upon to deliver a latest-generation gaming experience.
For developers, Fire TV’s nascent gaming ecosystem could lead to a whole new audience for games and apps. Those who’ve developed Android apps have an advantage when it comes to migrating software to Amazon’s new platform. “Porting You Don’t Know Jack was really like developing for Android, with the exception of the store and the new controller library,” Jackbox Games Designer/Director Steve Heinrich told gaming site Gamasutra after the Fire TV announcement. “The store itself is the same as the Kindle version, which we’ve used many times now, and the way the controller works is very close to what we did for Ouya.”
Amazon’s already spent much effort convincing developers that building apps for its platforms is a great idea. With so many gaming alternatives on the market, however—and more possibly on the way, if the next Apple TV features gaming capability—the company could find it needs to go even further to pull in quality product. And therein lies the opportunity for ambitious game-builders, provided the latter have the resources to work on yet another platform.
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Walking Dead image: Telltale Studios
Fire TV Images: Amazon