Amazon has unveiled its new cloud gaming service, officially named Moon, in the Alexa annual hardware event today. This makes it a direct competitor to Google Stadia, Microsoft xCloud, Sony PlayStation Now and many other services from major game publishers, all eager to test the code for streaming video games over the Internet.
But in a revealing interview with Protocol published after the eventMarc Whitten, vice president of entertainment and services company, clarified one of the most vital questions about Luna that was not answered during the revelation: what is the business model? And from what we can learn from the interview, it is very similar to the video game cable, for better or for worse.
Whitten says Protocol that Luna will not follow the Stadia model, which is free, but requires users to pay for individual games to flow on the platform. (You can also pay for Stadia Pro to get 4K streaming, access to a small but growing library of free titles, and more.) -for the absolute degree. This setting allows you to stream any of the 100-plus games on the Game Pass platform, but only on one Android device at this time.
Instead, Luna will offer individual “channels” for affiliate publishers, similar to the Amazon Channels platform, which allows Prime subscribers to add individual TV streaming subscriptions as add-ons, all together in a monthly payment managed by Amazon. These channels will be priced differently and seem to come with differences in privileges and restrictions, although the details are subtle at the moment. The service will soon be launched in early access for a small number of users with only two channels to launch.
The first channel will be an Amazon brand called Luna Plus, which is a bit like the Stadia Pro, as it offers 4K streaming and “unlimited hours of play”, but goes further by offering access to dozens of games all for $ 5.99 a month. It is not clear what this game list looks like beyond the original confirmed series, such as Resident Evil 7 and Control, but the model already gives Luna a slight advantage over Stadia, without requiring subscribers to pay for most of the titles they want to play. In fact, it does not appear that Luna will allow users to pay for games at all. right now, it looks like you need to subscribe to a channel to access anything on the platform.
The second channel will belong to the major game publisher Ubisoft, which offers the same privileges as Luna Plus (although Ubisoft restricts users to one account per stream instead of the two allowed on the Amazon channel) and most likely access in most, if not all, of the company’s huge library. Amazon will not say what the Ubisoft channel will cost, but it may be priced higher than Luna Plus and more according to UPlay Plus, the $ 14.99 subscription service released by Ubisoft last year.
“You will see other channels over time,” Whitten said Protocol. He added that toy publishers “are very excited about the idea”. It is not clear how, say, indie games or titles from mid-sized publishers may not be able to support a full Luna channel, or if that is why Luna Plus exists. It is also unclear how companies with competing cloud priorities, such as Microsoft and Sony, will be treated. That said, Electronic Arts, which works on its own cloud gaming platform, did earlier this month Partner with Microsoft for the Xbox Game Pass, which suggests that we could see EA’s Play subscription reach Luna.
But more generally, why wouldn’t publishers be excited? Luna’s format sounds like a lucrative form for cloud gaming, mainly because it is structured similarly to the current TV landscape stream. Just as Amazon Prime gives you free access to Prime Video with your monthly or annual payment, Luna Plus will give you access to whatever games Amazon can get for cloud gaming rights for a monthly fee, which can to increase after the early access period.
In the meantime, if you want to pay for extra games from other publishers, you will buy access to this publisher’s Luna channel, just as you would subscribe to HBO or Netflix separately through the Amazon Channels platform. Amazon will handle all the billing and subscription logistics, and Amazon will likely reduce all monthly subscription revenue in exchange for managing account subscriptions and, most importantly, power the entire Luna service on the AWS cloud computing platform. The whole thing is a lot like a basic cable package with extras for which you pay separately or the equivalent cable cutter by paying half a dozen streaming services along with a Sling TV or YouTube TV subscription for your cable access.
All of this sounds great to toy publishers who want to monetize a new distribution channel, but it may be a little bad news for gaming fans, hoping that more models like Nvidia’s GeForce Now will become the norm. The Nvidia model lets you play games you already have through the Valve Steam Marketplace on a variety of screens, including a Mac or Android phone.
But the service initially met Strong contrast from game publishers when it came out of beta and Nvidia started charging it earlier this year, mainly because some publishers do not seem to explicitly give Nvidia permission to stream their intellectual property from a cloud server. Many publishers have since opted back to the Nvidia platform, after a few high-profile departures, such as Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive. However, the GeForce Now situation has shown how the biggest game developers in the industry see the benefits of cloud gaming as primarily a way of selling games to new customers (or accessing games through subscriptions) and less than a way to give more to existing play the titles they already hold.
Cloud gaming is still in its infancy, of course, and every big player is experimenting with the business model to find out what’s wrong. With the introduction of the Luna and Amazon channels-based approach, we see another bet on how the future of game distribution will be structured. Although this time around, Amazon is following a successful pattern of how much TV is being grouped and sold on the Internet today. Whether this conscious move will depend on whether consumers see enough benefits in Luna and what it has to offer to add even more charges to the ever-growing list of monthly subscriptions.