Amazon Joins Engine Arena
FEB. 10, 2016 • Amazon.com is entering the highly competitive AAA game engine business with two new platforms. Lumberyard is a free CryEngine-based, cross-platform, 3D game engine that features rich development tools, a graphics renderer, physics engine, native integration with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to create multiplayer online games, plus native integration with Twitch. Amazon licensed CryEngine from Crytek last year. Lumberyard is now in beta and downloadable for PC and console platforms, with mobile and VR platform support to follow. Integrating with Lumberyard is GameLift, a new service for deploying, operating, and scaling session-based multiplayer games. Using GameLift, developers can quickly scale high-performance game servers up and down to meet player demand, without any additional engineering effort or upfront costs. In addition to AWS service fees, GameLift adds a per-player fee that Amazon says will be small.
Impact: DFC has been advising for years that Amazon and Google Inc. are making big moves into the game space. The buy-in bandied about in the game press last year for Amazon to license CryEngine was in the plus-$50 million range. That investment seemed high given what we knew then about Amazon’s development aspirations, but now that we know the firm wants to be a major player in engine market share, the price tag makes much more sense. But just as cheap Fire tablets are a vehicle to boost online commerce sales, deploying Lumberyard and GameLift free is a naked inducement to push more revenue to Amazon’s cloud services business. Amazon is already a major player in providing server farms to clients from the U.S. government to Netflix Inc., yet this game engine play is another example of how the online retailer is relentless in going after market share. We don’t know as of yet how much Lumberyard deviates from the existing version of CryEngine, yet offering these feature-rich tools for free gives developers a superior option for no cost that seriously competes with the not-quite-free Unreal and Unity 3D engines.
What impact Lumberyard and GameLift will have on game development will take time to become known, Amazon has no shortage of cash, nor is there a lack of ability to get these engines noticed. The point on which this bet will turn is if the strength of the AWS backend and developer support services will yield lower cost/easier to make high-quality AAA games. We expect a lot of developers, especially ones that already know CryEngine, to give very serious attention to Lumberyard. As for how much share it can yield, the first question is if this a mere transfer of the existing CryEngine development community over to Lumberyard now with AWS integrated backend services. Regardless, this is a major shake up of the game engine business, that neatly fits in with Amazon’s go big or go home philosophy. Perhaps more importantly it shows Amazon is serious about becoming a major power in games and that is critical for all players simply because of who Amazon is. Now if Apple were to go after the game space in a major way that would really upset the cart.