Amazon Is Now Eyeing The Gaming Market With AWS

  • Amazon announced new AWS products for professional game developers building AAA games.
  • Lumberyard is a powerful game engine built upon Crytek's CryEngine, with upcoming support for VR headsets.
  • Amazon GameLift takes care of deploying online games powered by Lumberyard on AWS, with Twitch integration.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced new Amazon Web Services (AWS) products for professional game developers building cloud-connected, cross-platform AAA games. AWS - Amazon's cloud-computing platform - includes Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, also known as EC2, and Amazon Simple Storage Service, also known as S3. According to Amazon, AWS provides enterprise clients with a faster and cheaper way to achieve a large computing than building a physical server farm.

According to Jeff Barr, "Chief Evangelist" for AWS, building world-class games is a very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process. Modern game development teams need skills in storytelling, game design, physics, logic design, sound creation, graphics, visual effects, and animation. For network-based games, development teams also need skills in scaling, online storage, network communication and management, and security. Therefore, competing in today's very demanding gaming industry is very expensive and time-consuming - developing a game can take 18 to 36 months - and represents a considerable financial and reputational risk for game studios.

Amazon offers to take care of many technical aspects of game development with a service that streamlines and simplifies game creation and network deployment, with an emphasis on rapid turnaround and easy iteration, leaving developers free to focus on the unique and creative aspects of their games.

"We started with several proven, industry leading engines and developer tools, added a considerable amount of our own code, and integrated the entire package with our Twitch video platform and community, while also mixing in access to relevant AWS messaging, identity, and storage services," says Barr. The AWS value proposition for game development consists of Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift, targeted respectively at game development and network deployment.

Lumberyard is a game engine and development environment designed for professional developers, which supports the development of cloud-connected and standalone 3D games, with support for asset management, character creation, AI, physics, audio, and more. Lumberyard is built upon CryEngine, one of the leading game engines in the industry, known for its advanced visual scripting model and the stunning video, realistic graphics and real-life physics in popular real-time action games powered by the engine.

Developed by German company Crytek, CryEngine was reportedly licensed to Amazon for $50-70 million in April 2015. Lumberyard also includes technology from Double Helix, a game development studio that was acquired by Amazon in 2014. The Lumberyard engine, including its full source code, is completely free to download and use to make PC and console games. Amazon will not charge any kind of royalty or subscription fee, and monetize Lumberyard through the use of AWS cloud computing.

Lumberyard will permit developing fully immersive Virtual Reality (VR) games with support for the latest VR interface hardware, such as Facebook's Oculus Rift headset. "We are currently upgrading our Oculus VR support to Rift SDK 1.0, which was released by Oculus in late December," notes the Lumberyard website. "We wanted to finish upgrading to Rift SDK 1.0 before releasing the first public version of VR support within Lumberyard, which will be included in a future release soon."

Amazon GameLift takes care of deploying, operating, and scaling server-based online games powered by Lumberyard on AWS. "You simply upload your game server image to AWS and deploy the image into a fleet of EC2 instances that scales up as players connect and play," says Barr. "You don’t need to invest in building, scaling, running, or monitoring your own fleet of servers. Instead, you pay a small fee per daily active user (DAU) and the usual EC2 On-Demand rates for the compute capacity, EBS [Elastic Block Store] storage, and bandwidth that your users consume." GameLift will cost $1.50 per 1,000 daily active users, plus the usual rates for the EC2 instances used, plus a charge for 50 GB/month of EBS storage per instance.

Games built with Lumberyard and deployed to Amazon AWS with GameLift can be integrated with live streaming video and chat platform Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014. Twitch is hugely popular among gamers. The integration with Twitch, the fourth largest source of peak Internet traffic in the US with 100+ million unique viewers per month and 2+ million peak concurrent viewers, is likely to dramatically boost the popularity of AWS games.

The gaming industry is expected to grow for at least the rest of the decade. The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Global and Entertainment Media Outlook 2015-2019 report predicts that global games revenues will reach $93.18 billion by 2019. In particular, high-performance action games built for the latest VR interface can be expected to capture the attention of scores of addicted gamers. It seems that Amazon is playing its cards wisely to capture a slice of the gaming market and at the same time promote its AWS cloud computing platform, which is likely to boost Amazon's stock in the medium term.

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