Why both Google and Amazon can’t do games well?

"Come and go in a hurry, I want to meet each other." This line of lyrics is really appropriate to describe Google's self-developed game. Recently, Google’s vice president and Stadia general manager Phill Harrison announced that it would close Stadia’s game development department. From announcing the establishment of a studio to develop exclusive 3A masterpieces for Stadia to disbanding, it has only been 2 years.

Fifteen years ago, there were about 200 million gamers in the world, and today's number is about 2.7 billion. Electronic games have become the largest media format. The huge market makes the game industry look like an unfathomable big gold mine, attracting manufacturers from all sides to make a fortune. However, the reality is more of a disappointment.

Among this group of "gray noses", there are two giant figures that are particularly eye-catching: Google with a market value of 1.30 trillion dollars and Amazon with a market value of 1.70 trillion dollars. The two Internet giants are like a pair of difficult brothers, and they repeatedly run into walls in the game industry.

Stadia exclusive game in stillborn

At the Google GDC conference in 2019, Google's Stadia cloud gaming platform set off a cloud gaming trend. This is also the first foray into the gaming industry since the establishment of the Internet giant in 21 years.

With the help of a huge cloud computing system, Stadia brings a "future" game experience that existing game consoles and high-performance PCs cannot: No need to purchase additional expensive game hardware, only a gamepad, which can be used on TVs, monitors, and even Play 3A masterpieces on your phone.

▲ Jade Raymond chatting and laughing with Hideo Kojima

At the same time, Google announced the establishment of a first party game studio (SE&G) in Montreal, and hired Jade Raymond from EA to be the head of the studio. Jade Raymond was responsible for the development of classic works such as "The Sims Online", "Assassin's Creed", "Assassin's Creed 2", and "Split Cell 6". This makes players look forward to it. Google's new studio is here. What kind of surprises can be brought under the leadership of the game veteran.

However, before the surprise, the players waited for a surprise. The story returned to the beginning of the article. Google recently announced the suspension of studio development and shifted Stadia’s work focus to the construction of cloud gaming platforms and cooperation with third-party vendors. Cooperation, its head Jade Raymond also officially announced his departure from Google.

▲ Picture from: Wired

SE&G has not yet released a game from its founding to being beaten by Google. According to the information previously disclosed by its person in charge, SE&G is based on the characteristics of Stadia cloud games to create a characteristic IP, through exclusive games to attract players to subscribe to Stadia services, and reduce dependence on third-party game providers.

The cause of SE&G’s stillbirth is also very straightforward. Phill Harrison said that Google needs to invest a lot of money and time costs on the road to self-developed games, and these costs will increase exponentially with the deepening of research and development, in simple terms "The self-developed game is too expensive, I can't afford it."

Rather than saying that Google is fleeing this time, it is better to say that the strong man broke his wrist and stopped the loss in time. The development of 3A games requires not only capital and talents, but more importantly, rich production experience. It is almost impossible for a start-up team to produce a masterpiece that can attract players to switch to the platform within a few years.

And Google's decisive decision may be based on the lessons learned from another technology giant that has remade games.

"Amazon? Does it have/still making games?"

When it comes to Amazon's gaming business, friends who don't pay much attention to the Internet giant will be amazed at how wide its business is, while those who have heard of Amazon games will be surprised that Amazon is still insisting on making games.

In terms of timeline, Amazon was earlier than Google and took aim at the big cake of games. In 2012, Amazon Game Studio (AGS) was established, and many games have been launched.

However, there are still many people who are unheard of Amazon's games. Could it be that Amazon has made R&D without promoting it? The reason may be relatively simple-these games are not very fun.

When AGS was first established, it was only a casual mobile game, and it was just a trifle in terms of the quality of the game. However, Amazon said that the world is entering the "golden age of gaming." The wealthy Amazon either does not do it, or if it wants to do it, it must do it.

In April 2014, Amazon acquired Double Helix, the developer of "Silent Hill: Homecoming", to accumulate development strength for the ideal of AGS's self-developed 3A game. In 2017, Amazon launched its ambitious new game "Breakaway", which is Amazon's first big budget game and the beginning of disaster.

▲ Picture from: GameHyped

"Breakaway" is a 4V4 MOBA online game. Players will be divided into two teams. You can choose characters from different professions such as fighters and wizards to compete for the "Holy Ball" in the arena.

In terms of gameplay and concept, "Breakaway" is like a combination of "League of Legends" and "Rocket League". However, after the two hot games are stitched together, the core experience for players is very bad. Two years after the release , Amazon officially cancelled this project.

Bloomberg commented bitterly: Amazon can do anything except a good game.

▲ Picture from: Business Insider

To discuss Amazon’s road to game development, one has to mention Mike Frazzini, the head of the game project. Before taking on this important task, he was responsible for the Fire mobile phones and tablets that have been tombstones, which is not related to games. The Amazon Book Man.

This is also one of Amazon's corporate philosophy. Competent people can do it everywhere, and the company will provide data and funds as support.

However, data can provide guidance for the production of games, but it cannot dominate the entire game. The development of a game relies heavily on the control of experienced producers, and this is precisely what Amazon lacks, which is precisely what caused Amazon to suffer a lot.

"Wired" once interviewed Amazon's former development staff, which mentioned the difficulties that Amazon encountered in game development, many of which can be attributed to Frazzini's wrong judgment.

For example, in the choice of game development engine, Amazon did not choose the mature Unity or Unreal 4 engine, but chose to develop its own independent game engine Lumberyard.

Self-developed game engines will indeed bring many benefits to game development, such as higher customization, faster running efficiency, and ability to bypass technical barriers.

But at the same time, it should not be ignored that these benefits are based on a mature and available engine. Developing a large-scale independent game while developing a game engine at the same time is tantamount to servicing the aircraft engine during the flight.

In a Bloomberg report, a former Amazon developer once described the experience of developing games with Lumberyard: "I need to build a gorgeous house, but I don't even have a hammer in my hand." Fortunately, I am waiting. While Lumberyard is slowly rendering, Amazon employees can also spend time watching Amazon Prime programs.

▲ Picture from: PCmag

When the time comes to 2020, Amazon returns to the players with a new game "Crucible", and chooses to put it on the Steam platform for free. However, now I open Steam to search for "Crucible", except for the details page rated as "mostly bad", it is no longer possible to download this game-Amazon is down again.

Being free does not please players. "Crucible" is evaluated as a boring game that looks like "Overwatch" and plays like "APEX", but has a single gameplay. Amazon wants to add some Amazon-specific elements to it, such as using Amazon's huge cloud server to achieve super-multiplayer battles. However, players who have been dissuaded by the tedious gameplay did not give Amazon a chance to continue to improve.

The two games that Amazon has rushed to the street have obvious data-oriented colors. What type of games are popular in the market, Amazon will pick these "foodstuffs" and make a big mess, and get a "popular" popular game.

However, the backward game engine makes Amazon unable to keep up with the changes in player tastes (Amazon has not yet released the latest game, a battle royale game that was popular three years ago), and leaders who don’t understand the game can’t grasp the interests that players really love Point, Amazon's game is like a job report to the senior management, failure may be inevitable.

▲ Picture from: KnowsTechie

Amazon is not without advantages in the game field. In fact, it has a "good card" that other game companies are eager to see-Twitch, which accounts for 65.8% of the live broadcast market.

After Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014, Bezos had envisaged combining the largest game live broadcast platform with its own game business: using Twitch to attract traffic for new games for marketing, and exclusive game broadcasting to retain viewers.

This is a good thing with two beautiful circles, but the reality is contrary to Bezos's vision. Amazon encourages anchors to broadcast "Breakaway" and "Crucible" on Twitch, but the more boring games are broadcast, the less people will watch them. The less people watch the audience, the less people play, forming a reverse vicious circle.

In September 2020, Amazon announced the launch of the Luna cloud gaming platform, betting on the new track of cloud gaming. Similar to Google’s Stadia, Luna also uses subscription fees, including games such as "Control", "Resident Evil 7," Far Cry 6, "Assassin's Creed: Hall of Valor" and "Finnis Rise". .

With the help of the combination of cloud gaming platform and Twitch, Amazon may really be able to realize the mutual conversion of cloud game players and live audiences this time. Unlike Stadia, Amazon will continue to adhere to its self-developed game dream.

In the era of cloud gaming, do platforms really need exclusive games?

Comparing the cloud gaming strategies of Google and Amazon carefully, you will find some similarities between many Internet players (corresponding to traditional manufacturers such as Nintendo and Sony): both have launched cloud gaming platforms, and have released corresponding game controllers. Focus on building a game live broadcast platform, all want to make a big game.

▲ Picture from: TheVerge

Compared with the paper talks of the past few years, cloud games that have gradually come to reality have allowed many players to taste the sweetness of "playing games anytime, anywhere."

With the continuous improvement of network infrastructure and the rapid development of 5G technology, the "future" that we have mentioned countless times may have come to the corner of the times. People are preparing to enter an era where physical games and cloud games intersect and develop. Every cloud game manufacturer needs to think about it. When confronting physical games head-on, does it really need an exclusive game?

Relying on exclusive game entry to open up the situation is a classic example of the Internet to become a game-the secret of Microsoft's success. At the beginning of the millennium, when home consoles were still competing for hegemony between Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft spent $50 million to acquire Bungie, the developer of "Halo", and let "Halo 1" as an exclusive game to escort the original console Xbox.

This is a money-burning business, and the final time has proved the value of Microsoft's money. "Halo 1" has successfully attracted the attention of players from all over the world to Xbox, a new console that is not well-known, with its super high game quality and epic space war. Many players started specifically for the purpose of playing "Halo 1". Xbox has greatly boosted the sales of Xbox consoles.

In the end, the cumulative sales of "Halo 1" exceeded 8 million, becoming a palace-level series in the history of FPS games. Microsoft's Xbox has also successfully entered the game industry, and has formed a game console with Nintendo and Sony. It can be said that "Halo 1" only made Xbox.

Why can Microsoft burn the money to monopolize the game, but Google and Amazon, which have the same large amount of money, can't do it?

▲ Even the latest work "Halo: Infinite", which Microsoft spent $500 million to build, has many players dislike

There are many reasons for this. For example, players' expectation threshold for a masterpiece has been greatly improved compared to 20 years ago. If you want to come up with a masterpiece like "Halo 1", it is difficult for even Yusanjia to pack tickets. The more important reason is that under the charging model of the cloud game subscription system, the significance of monopolization for the cloud game platform is not as good as the physical console era.

Home game consoles have always been a loss-making business. Whether it is Sony or Microsoft, their game consoles are sold at a cost line or even at a loss. For example, the original Xbox console costs as much as 450 US dollars, but in order to compete with the US$299 PS2 Competition, Microsoft still insists on setting the price at $299 to sell at a loss.

Game console manufacturers value the content consumption of players after purchasing hardware. This continuous hematopoietic ability also makes game console manufacturers willing to spend a lot of money to create exclusive masterpieces to attract players to stay in their camp.

However, in the face of the subscription system of cloud games, the enclosure benefits of exclusive masterpieces are obviously greatly reduced. Players can subscribe to the services of Stadia or Luna for exclusive games, or they can cancel the subscription at any time after playing and switch to another camp. If you spend a lot of money but can't keep players, it will be an embarrassment for cloud service providers to monopolize the game.

Compared with exclusive games, a larger and more comprehensive game library and better cloud services are the differences between cloud game vendors. After closing the research and development of exclusive games, Google focused on providing services to third-party manufacturers. This is not only a strategy failure, but also a proof of the failure of the physical game rules in the cloud game era.

Neil Campling, an analyst at Mirabasud Securities, once said that "the war on cloud gaming has just begun. This is a new large-scale technology competition. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft all want to win."

Whether it is Microsoft's xCloud, Facebook's Facebook Gaming or Stadia and Luna, whoever first grasps the rules of this new arena is the most likely to win.

▲ Picture from: Bussiness Insider

On the road of self-developed games, Google has turned back in time. Andy Jassy, ​​who will take over Bezos as Amazon's new CEO in June this year, said that Amazon is still committed to developing video games. In an email to the internal, Jassy mentioned that "I believe that if we can continue to focus on the most important things, the team can succeed."

Will the stubborn Amazon stubbornly produce a 3A masterpiece and become a new generation game story, or will it leave the game as ambitious as Google? Only time will tell us the answer.

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