With Amazon’s annual hardware event Fall Devices & Services came the announcement of its cloud gaming service, which looks to take on the big guns like Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate and Sony PlayStation Now. In the last few months, the game streaming service arena has been heating-up like anything. Stadia has picked up pace, while Project xCloud and PlayStation Now are gaining momentum ever so steadily – the two giants have launched their latest versions of gaming consoles which integrate at a very deep level for cloud game streaming.
Flexibility with cross-platform compatibility
Amazon Luna powered by the AWS (Amazon Web Server) has been launched with cross-platform compatibility on Windows PC, Mac, in-house Fire TV compatible devices, and Apple mobile devices. Yes, the latter part is interesting as Amazon said at the launch that iOS devices will be compatible when Luna gets going. This is good news since cloud gaming services like Stadia and xCloud have met a dead end, for now, thanks to the Apple policies for cloud game streaming. The Android compatibility will follow soon and should not be much of a hassle for Amazon.
Much like Google’ Stadia is slated to have seamless functionality with YouTube for jumping right into a game streaming channel, Luna will make good use of Twitch likewise. The supported games for the streaming platform will let the users’ launch games right there, which is great. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft has chosen Facebook as its streaming partner after letting go of the Mixer service. Clearly, Stadia and Amazon will have an upper hand when we talk of cross-platform compatibility with their in-house platforms that have a strong foothold already.
Things already in favor
The game streaming services are suddenly quite crowded and Amazon wants to tap on the early advantage even though the likes of Google Stadia have already got a head start. Basically, Luna is currently where Stadia was last year. Things that for now are apparently in favor of Amazon’s cloud gaming venture put it in a good starting position for luring early adopters.
When compared to Stadia, Amazon has elements that can be leveraged for an advantage over rivals and for now, they are already neck-to-neck with Google’s version. Luna has its own gaming controller like Stadia, they also have Alexa to take on Google Assistant and lastly, Amazon has Twitch while Google has YouTube.
Finally, Amazon has a big game publishing house Ubisoft, which is going to have a dedicated channel on the platform. That means you’ll have uninterrupted access to the latest upcoming hot games by the publisher. The likes of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, or Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
The streaming service will also allow for two devices to stream games simultaneously from a single account. Since the service is just getting started, the early adopters will get unlimited hours of play, for the initial phase.
Luna hardware and prerequisites
Cloud gaming natively frees you from the shackles of procuring the latest hardware required, as the onus is on the service provider. Still, the end-user needs basic input hardware to get going. Yes, the compatible devices and of course the controller. Luna is adopting a Stadia-like approach for starters as they’ve also announced their controller ($49.99) which is going to be fully Alexa-enabled and presumably have very little latency (17 – 30 milliseconds) as it will connect directly to Amazon’s custom servers. The controller will also connect directly to the cloud, therefore, a device-specific setup will not be needed. Gaming between screens will be seamless as no initial pairing is required.
The design up front seems to be inspired by the Nintendo Switch Pro and there are adoptions from the Xbox controller too with the similar X/Y and A/B button configurations. Like it is said, Stadia adopted approach for the controller is evident and that follows to the compatibility with other third-party game controllers, keyboard, and mouse.
As for the compatibility, Luna requires a Windows 10 PC with DirectX 11 support and Mac OSX 10.13 (or higher). The gaming experience will be best on minimum internet speed of 10Mbps for the 1080p streaming and 35Mbps for 4K quality (at 60 fps). The service will be compatible with FireTV devices like Fire TV Stick (Second generation), Fire TV Stick 4K or the Fire TV Cube (Second Gen). For web compatibility on PC and Mac gamers need to have the Chrome web browser (version 83+) (iOS14). Lastly, for iPhone and iPad the Safari web browser (iOS14) is a prerequisite.
Compatible titles for kick-starting
Amazon is aware that it needs a solid library of compatible games with Luna to give it the ambitions wings. They’ve sorted that bit for now as the platform will come with titles including Control, Yooka-Laylee, and the Impossible Lair and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Resident Evil 7, and GRID. Other noticeable titles spotted for the service at launch are Steamworld Dig 2, Indivisible, The Surge 2, Metro Exodus, Rez Infinite, and Sonic Mania.
Since Luna will come with separate channels with a set of game libraries for every publisher, gamers can tap into their favorite publishers and access their games. For now, Luna will have two channels – Luna Plus and Ubisoft – both of which will have 50 odd games to get things started. So, you’ll have a library of around 100 games to explore when things get going.
Monthly subscription plan and availability
How the cloud gaming services are going to position themselves in terms of monthly subscriptions will play a vital role in early adoption with newer platforms. Stadia Pro and PlayStation Now have a monthly subscription plan of $9.99. Microsoft xCloud bundled with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription (including the Xbox Live and the Game Pass unlimited) will cost $14.99 while Luna is going for a very aggressive $5.99 per month subscription plan. For the initial stint, Amazon Luna will only be available to gamers in the US via early access invitation-based program.
There is no official word on the time frame when the early access program will kick-off nor is there any word on the full version release date. Hopefully, there will be more on this in the coming months. In all probability, Amazon would like to get things started with Luna early next year or even before that, since they’ve made the announcement of the platform.