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Amazon gets in on gaming with Lumberyard, a free engine to rival Unreal and Unity

Over the past few years, Amazon has been acquiring a number of companies and technologies relating to video games. In 2014 the company acquired both Killer Instinct developer Helix Games and game live-streaming service Twitch. Now the reasoning behind that seems to make much more sense, as the company has revealed its own game engine designed to compete with Unreal Engine and Unity.

The engine, dubbed Amazon Lumberyard, was announced today by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is available to developers for free. In addition to the standard features of a 3D game engine, it also features built-in Twitch integration. Alongside Lumberyard, the company also announced GameLift, a service to help developers scale servers for multiplayer games up and down depending on how many people are playing at a given time.

“When we’ve talked to game developers, they’ve asked for a game engine with the power and capability of leading commercial engines, but that’s significantly less expensive, and deeply integrated with AWS for the back-end and Twitch for the gamer community,” said the vice president of Amazon Games, Mike Frazzini, in a statement. “We’re excited to deliver that for our game developers today with the launch of Amazon Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift.”

The Twitch integration goes far beyond simply streaming gameplay. Lumberyard includes a feature called ChatPlay that allows developers to build features that let Twitch viewers directly impact the game they’re watching. Support for chat commands is included, which means that “Twitch Plays” game runs will be supported without any additional work on the part of those setting up the channels.

If you’ve ever wanted to hop into a game you’re watching, another feature of Lumberyard called Twitch Join will let you do just that. Assuming the developer builds support for the feature into the game, streamers will be able to invite viewers to join them in-game with one click.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re wondering why Amazon would give this away, it’s similar to why Unreal Engine and Unity are both available for free. The difference here is that instead of collecting royalties or selling developers extra features, Amazon plans to make money using GameLift and AWS. GameLift costs $1.50 per 1,000 daily active users, and developers will have to pay the standard rate for AWS.

Still, this looks to be a promising tool for developers, with Amazon boasting that the tools included in Lumberyard allow developers to quickly create stunning worlds and characters. For studios focused on multiplayer or social games, the new engine could be the best place to start.

Amazon Lumberyard is currently available in beta for developers who are building games for both the PC and consoles. Mobile and VR platforms are both planned as well, and are currently listed as “coming soon.” For more information, see the Lumberyard website.

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Kris Wouk
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kris Wouk is a tech writer, gadget reviewer, blogger, and whatever it's called when someone makes videos for the web. In his…
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