Amazon is taking its first formal crack at living room gaming with the newly announced FireTV. The just-released $99 device offers all manner of music and video streaming via its modified Android operating system, but its quad-core processor and dedicated GPU provide enough juice to power popular games like Asphalt 8, Minecraft: Pocket Edition, and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. It’s not exactly lined up to knock down the big three console makers – Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony – but that’s not the point. FireTV competes with Apple TV, Roku, and other streaming boxes of that sort.
Gaming is more of a bonus that exists alongside the multimedia streaming, though there’s a considerable push behind it. You’ll be able to play games using the packed in remote control or a smartphone app that will be launching in May, but Amazon is also selling a $40 controller with a console-style layout (think Xbox 360 gamepad). You may not need that sort of control flexibility for every game available on FireTV, but there are plenty of possibilities to cater to a range of audiences in a library of more than 1,000 paid and free-to-play titles.
Amazon is putting its recent purchase of developer Double Helix to good use, as Amazon Game Studios is tasked with developing content for FireTV to exist alongside the third-party offerings. The first title revealed from AGS is Sev Zero, a third-person sci-fi shooter. You can expect to see content from major players in the game publishing space as well; it’s a no-brainer for anyone that already supports Android. Electronic Arts, Ubisoft… names you know.
Up to seven different controllers can be paired with one device. That combined with the low price point should line FireTV up to compete with microconsoles like Ouya or GameStick along with the more traditional media streaming boxes. Party games could be a real hit on this platform, as Towerfall capably proved during its days of Ouya exclusivity.
There’s been a lot of furrowed brows directed at the increasing ubiquity of set-top streaming boxes and microconsoles as more and more PCs are connected to TVs, but FireTV seems to hit the sweet spot. The price is right, the hardware is robust enough to support a range of gaming experiences, and the multimedia potential is huge with the muscle of a company like Amazon (and its streaming services) behind it.
Check out our review of the Amazon Fire TV media streamer.