Amazon Scraps Alexa Celebrity Voices, And Samuel L. Jackson Is The First To Go

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Of all the virtual assistants available, Alexa has been the least territorial. She willingly shared space with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Shaquille O'neal ever since Amazon launched the celebrity voices feature for its smart speakers in 2019. Celebs offered their likenesses through pre-recorded voice lines: You could enjoy their infectious personalities through on-brand jokes, and unique one-liners that you could prompt using specific Alexa commands and questions.

However, according to new evidence surfaced by The Verge, that functionality is being phased out — and there's no telling when or if it will ever return. Pages for these fun Alexa skills are showing that access will eventually be revoked by September's end, but everyone's favorite sailor-mouthed actor got the axe early:

"Samuel L. Jackson's Alexa voice is no longer available for purchase," reads his Alexa Skills page at Amazon. "Customers who previously purchased the experience may continue to use the skill until April 2023 by saying 'Hey Samuel.'"

The Amazon listing has been deluged with comments from disappointed customers who still use the app. "I love having Samuel L. Jackson voice my Alexa, and I am extremely disappointed that they are discontinuing it," one verified purchaser lamented. Several commenters expressed a willingness to pay annual fees to retain the feature, while others are more upset that he doesn't drop more f-bombs.

Will buyers get their money back?

Celebrity voice skills are inexpensive. Some paid as little as $0.99 before prices eventually reached $4.99. However, it'll still rub people the wrong way to learn they'll no longer have unmitigated access to something they paid for.

It's unclear how Amazon will handle potential refunds, if at all. The language in these notices doesn't rule out the possibility that users might be able to retain access by going through their purchase history. There'd be no foul for Amazon in that case.

What Amazon does risk losing in this process is some goodwill. This change sets a precedent for the sudden revocation of features that may have contributed, even if only minimally, to their decision to buy into the Alexa and Echo ecosystem. It's not a good look for a platform struggling to maintain relevance amongst a growing and quickly evolving legion of AI chatbots, many of which don impressively advanced capabilities that put Alexa to shame.

As for why the company decided to remove them? That's anyone's guess. Potential reasons range from expiring licenses, to a change in strategy, or some amalgamation of both. Especially with Alexa reportedly suffering an existential crisis behind the scenes, Amazon could have decided that continued development of these skills is no longer worth the time or money needed to keep these services going.