Cloudy with a Chance of Games

The day has finally come that Amazon enters into the cloud gaming space. Amazon has recently announced their cloud gaming service entitled Luna. Little was known about it prior to the announcement other than it was code named Project Tempo. For a little more than a year now, it was known that Amazon was working on a cloud gaming service; still, there was no warning that the service was imminent, or even close to being announced. 

The last we heard from it was earlier in the year when it was reported that Project Tempo would be delayed, and could possibly go into its beta phase as early as 2021. This obviously wasn’t the case. Amazon has got it to the point that it is ready for early access, and is taking requests for access to it. I have requested access to that for the sake of full disclosure.

I am interested in the service for a couple of factors. The main one being idle curiosity. I want to see how it works. Also, from what I can see, and have heard reported, there will be Capcom games, and Pac-Man on it. I have been asking the publishers to bring those games to Google Stadia since they have a relationship with the platform provider. To this day, Capcom has yet to release any games on Stadia, and that is upsetting. 

Amazon’s cloud gaming service has a lot of promise, but it also brings a lot of questions. One question is about how the “channels” feature is going to work. What is going to be free? What will we have to pay for. We can assume that anything Amazon related, like the Twitch channel where you can watch twitch streamers will be free. I do have a Twitch Prime account, and the option to stream from Luna is a big selling point. Stadia is working on their YouTube integration for Stadia, with features like Crowd Play, Crowd Choice, true State Shares on the way. Luna seems to be slightly ahead in that area.

When it comes to the game channels however, little is really known about how that will work. We know the Luna+ channel will have a $5.99 monthly fee during early access, the question is, how much will it really cost once the early access period is done? They have said they will notify you 30 days prior to the change in price to allow you to cancel if you choose to. This also leads to another question: If I cancel my subscription, will I lose access to all of the games? This is a big one due to there being no information about buying games individually like you can do on Stadia. We don’t know how it will work. Will it be a “Netflix of games” model? Or will it be like Stadia where you can purchase games ala carte style with extra games thrown in with the Pro subscription?

As it currently stands with Stadia, you don’t have to subscribe to the platform. As long as you have a Gmail account (Let’s be honest, who doesn’t have at least 2 Gmail accounts?), you can sign up for Stadia without entering any credit card information. You will have the ability to just buy your games, and play them on any device you currently have (except iOS, but that’s a different topic altogether). Luna will have access on Mac and web apps for iPhone, and iPad. We also know that the latest iOS update will have access for the Stadia controller on Safari. 

As far as games goes, Luna will launch with what they are saying will be 100 games. It’ll be more like 50 games on the Luna+ channel, and possibly another 50 on the Ubisoft channel. But will we have to pay another subscription fee for that channel, and any other game channel? Also, will games always be there, or will they be rotated out like on Gamepass from Microsoft? 

These are questions that need to be active. One thing we know about how this compares with Google Stadia is that Google promised “roughly 1 game per month to claim for free” and they have over delivered on that promise by putting up as little as 2 games per month for the first three months, and gradually increasing this offering to the point that in September there were a record (at the time) six games to claim for free, giving the running total to around 50 games that have been claimable for free since the platform’s launch in November 2019.

I’ve been meaning to do a count. Stadia currently has around 90 games or so on the platform. More than half of them being claimable on Pro at some point. As long as you keep your sub, you will have access to those games you claimed; even if they are rotated out of Stadia Pro.

So the question of how this will work with Luna is important to differentiate between the Stadia platform, and the Luna service. I am really curious because this could mean that individual publishers can make their own channels, and provide their games there since it will be easy to port the PC versions of those games over to Luna due to its Windows architecture. This brings back the question: Will we have to subscribe to these individual channels? That could get really expensive, really fast if that is the case. 

One thing I do like is the controller. It is familiar, and won’t take much getting used to. It is seemingly built off of the XBOX controller, which was built off of the Dreamcast controller, which borrowed from the PlayStation controller which expanded off of the Super Nintendo controller. I like that there will be an Alexa button on the top, similar to the Stadia controller having a Google Assistant button on the front.

There is also a dedicated microphone button on top with the microphone right on the face of the controller. Lastly, there is a hamburger menu button for pausing the game, and bringing up in-game menus. This is good, although I like how the Stadia controller has two different menu buttons. One for the pause menu, and the other for in-game menus. Also, there is no screenshot button like there is on the Stadia controller which allows you to take a screenshot, or 30 seconds of video to share online. Everything is pretty standard for the controller.  The controller will cost around $49,99.

I am interested in Amazon’s offering. It has games that I can’t as yet, play on Google Stadia. Google Stadia is still my preferred platform; because a lot of the games on Luna, I can get on Stadia. They will be mine to keep for the most part. There are still too many unknown at this point to say if Luna will change my mind. I do think that both will have their place as they provide different things.

There is one thing to remember though: Amazon doesn’t innovate as a company. Their history of creating their own products, and selling them for cheaper prices to encourage people to buy their version over the more recognizable named brand. This helps to drive those companies out of business. (Amazon Basics is a prime example. This leads some to some wonder if that is the M.O. (Modus operandi) of Luna. Time will tell. Until that is known, it will be an interesting ride, and I am here for it all.

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