Since its acquisition of Double Helix Games, the fires of speculation that Amazon would enter the gaming console space have been a-burnin’ brighter than ever. Here’s a bit of gasoline for that fire: A recent job listing at Amazon Game Studios.
The listing, which appears to have first surfaced on LinkedIn more than a month ago, calls for a senior graphics developer with at least seven years of game development experience, with a preference for candidates with “Android and iOS game development experience” and who have “shipped AAA game title(s).”
In the gaming industry, AAA is shorthand for big budgets and big teams. They’re the games that take up the most floor space at E3 and sell like hotcakes at retail stores like GameStop and Walmart — think Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or FIFA.
A similar listing for a creative director can be found on Amazon’s website, but without any mention of Android or iOS. It’s also missing a line from the LinkedIn posting, noting, “Our team includes industry veterans of dozens of titles including Thief, System Shock 2, Half Life 2, Left for Dead, Age of Empires, Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Call of Duty and Bioshock, with a pinch of Amazon peculiarity thrown in.”
Specifically calling for developers with big-budget experience is especially curious because, at least out in the wild, Amazon Game Studios has released only one game: The mobile strategy game Air Patriots, back in November 2012. The game is attractive and generally well-reviewed, but it never took off in any of the app store charts. Another game in the same vein would not need a longtime AAA veteran.
An Amazon representative declined to comment on the job postings or the composition of the current Game Studios team, but in that vacuum, here’s my uninformed gut check on this: If and when Amazon releases a gaming device (or, more likely, a media box with robust gaming features), it wants to avoid a repeat of the Ouya’s launch.
The Ouya, you might remember, is an Android-based TV-connected “microconsole,” a Kickstarter smash hit that didn’t exactly take the gaming world by storm last year. Its most noteworthy contribution after launch was a developer outreach contest, also on Kickstarter, that drew “scam” accusations, which in turn forced the company to rewrite the contest rules.
Prior to launch, the Android microconsole company asked its Kickstarter backers what games they wanted to see on the Ouya, and the most popular answers were largely AAA titles. Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and FIFA all made it into the top 20.
When the console launched instead with mostly smaller, simpler games, its early backers cried foul, saying they had been led to believe the $99 device would be able to hold its own with the PS4 or Xbox One. Whether or not that’s a legitimate complaint is beside the point: So far, at least, no one has proven that a casual-dominated marketplace, which works on mobile, is a good fit for the 60-inch flatscreen TV world.
Given that its good-for-gaming Kindle Fire tablets are based on Android, it’s plausible than an Amazon media/gaming box would also be a twist on Google’s operating system. With enough horsepower and a library of high-quality AAA-esque games, such a device would do what the Ouya did not: Offer some real competition to Microsoft’s and Sony’s current grip on the gamer’s living room.
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