Is there a place for Amazon in the gaming market?


The logo for Amazon.com is displayed at a news conference in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Amazon has acquired gaming studio Double Helix, resparking rumors that the tech giant is looking to step more fully into the world of video games.

Double Helix is best known for producing the Xbox One launch game “Killer Instinct,” and is based in Irvine, Calif. Its games are not the sort of mobile games that Amazon already offers for its own tablets. Double Helix makes titles more suited to the computer — or to the console.

Several media reports confirmed the acquisition, which was originally reported by TechCrunch. In a statement on Thursday, Amazon said it “has acquired Double Helix as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.”

The acquisition comes just a week after gaming Web site VG24/7 reported that Amazon is working on an Android-based console, citing unnamed sources who said the new piece of hardware will retail for less than $300.

It’s not the first time that Amazon’s name has been linked with games. The company already has a development wing called Amazon Game Studios, which currently offers one game: the Android-based “Air Patriots,” made for its Kindle line of tablets and other Android devices. With the addition of Double Helix, however, the game effort could take on a whole new spin.

There’s certainly space in the gaming world for another player — one who appeals to those between the hard-core gamers on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and the more casual gamers on smartphones and tablets. Others have tried to step into that space, most notably Ouya, a Kickstarter-backed independent console that starts at $99. (Ouya also recently released a new console that comes with double the memory for $129.)

One reason why Ouya and others have thus far failed to grab a substantial piece of the market, is that they haven’t had broad developer support. It’s actually a quandary that a lot of new entrants face in any software market. It’s hard to attract developers unless you can prove the customers are there. And it’s hard to attract customers if you can’t promise them that there will be good software — in this case, games — for them to enjoy.

But if Amazon’s taking the sector seriously, it could get around that problem by simply buying up the credibility it needs.

After all, it’s something they’ve tried before, with some pretty good success. The company’s work on Amazon Studios — its original series division — shows that it’s not afraid to throw money at content.

On Thursday, Amazon debuted a second wave of original pilots for its Amazon Prime service, which has already launched successful shows including Gary Trudeau’s “Alpha House” and another original series, “Betas.” It’s not a perfect parallel, since a developer such as Double Helix would likely want to produce in-house games rather than take submissions from others. But if Amazon shows the same willingness to fully invest in games that it has with its shows, its brand alone could easily attract talent from the gaming world on a higher level.

As for the hardware itself, it may not make a whole lot of sense for Amazon to release a dedicated gaming console. But modern consoles aren’t just for gaming. They rely on other content, mostly streaming video of the kind Amazon’s own Prime Video service provides. Rumors that Amazon’s been planning a set-top box stretch back years. If those rumors are true, then it’s not crazy to think that such a device would also include access to high-quality, downloadable or streaming games.

And if Amazon packaged all that together and priced it more like it has its Kindle line? Well then, Amazon will have ably filled that mid-range hole in the gaming market with a device that could have wide appeal to self-proclaimed gamers of the world — a demographic that’s at a billion and counting.

(Amazon chief executive officer Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business