Amazon enters the crowded games industry in full force Wednesday with its release of Crucible, the first big-budget PC game to come from Amazon Game Studios. Crucible is a promising mainstream introduction for the eight-year-old studio, which until now has had a large question mark hanging over its head.
Crucible is a third-person team shooter that takes place on a large junglelike planet in a sci-fi future. As one of a diverse cast of heroes called “hunters,” players mine resources from reptilian monsters and go head to head to capture points in their choice of three competitive modes. In a preview session hosted by Amazon Game Studios earlier this month, WIRED spent three hours playing the game and interviewing its designers. In that initial session, Crucible felt like a charming, competitive strategy shooter thoughtfully designed to incorporate the most lovable qualities of today’s top multiplayer games. (WIRED will publish a full review of Crucible once its servers are public.)
Although Crucible will be Amazon’s sexiest move in the games industry, the company is no stranger to the business of gaming. Amazon has of course been selling physical games and gaming consoles for well over a decade, competing with (and sometimes edging out) brick-and-mortar stores like GameStop—especially with its 2009 move into the used games and console market.
As game distribution migrated to digital storefronts, developers and publishers began relying heavily on cloud services like AWS, which now supports most of the biggest game companies in the world, including Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Capcom, and Square Enix. Countless games, multiplayer servers, player data storage systems, and machine learning tools run through Amazon’s data centers. And in April, the New York Times reported that Amazon was working on a cloud gaming service, known internally as Project Tempo, that would compete with similar offerings from Google, Microsoft, Sony, and more.
Amazon also owns the biggest game streaming service in the world: Twitch. In 2014, Amazon purchased the company for a reported $970 million in cash. Now, 65 percent of time spent watching other people play videogames happens on Twitch—which in April 2020 was 1.5 billion hours, according to Arsenal.gg.
And yet, while Amazon has had the horsepower and the cash to erect its own monument in the games world, it’s taken several years, and a few aborted tries, for its first big-budget title to see the light of day. Amazon Game Studios canceled its planned multiplayer brawler Breakaway in 2017. Last year, the studio laid off dozens of employees, and Kotaku reported that it canceled several other unannounced games. Since those layoffs, Amazon Game Studios has focused development on Crucible and New World, a 17th-century-themed fantasy MMORPG whose release has been delayed from May to August due to the pandemic.