Features prev : next
So Amazon's launch of Fire TV is a 'non-event', is it?
It was surprising to see the analyst consensus characterising last week's Amazon Fire TV launch as a 'non-event'.
Amazon is a major online retailing powerhouse, and this launch is a clear signal that gaming has got real traction as part of the mainstream entertainment industry and its battle for the living room.
The audience for games continues to grow rapidly. In the past few years everyone would have been funnelled into a choice between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, but today they have a significantly wider choice of gaming platforms - of which Fire TV is one more.
Unless those traditional console owners can present a compelling case for their systems, the current early adopter vanguard of PS4 and Xbox One owners may find themselves in more of a minority than they have been used to - it was the broad audience that drove the lifetime volume of the previous systems.
The ‘non-event’ comments perhaps originate from the from the heart of the ‘core gamer’, as perhaps it feels like this hardware release is not aimed at us. Or perhaps its coming from a very short-term view of the industry. Similar comments were made when Apple announced that their iPod music player was going to start supporting games.
The point is it has the potential to further broaden our audience, and, with time, a percentage of that audience will become core gamers too. Our industry has continually changed for the last thirty years, and this is just another step. We need to accept that the day of the dedicated device is probably over.
Few of us still have separate phones, PDA’s, GPS’s, Music players etc – they are now integrated. Games machines stream film and TV too, and the Fire TV is no different; it is all a question of emphasis. The emphasis might not be on games, but that is also true of the iPhone and iPad; it doesn’t stop them being major gaming devices.
Whilst gaming hardware always has been a vehicle for selling content as per the razors & razor blades / printers & ink cartridges model, ubiquitous online connection is re-defining the hardware's role as simply one relatively standardised / commoditised part of a much more complete eco-system.
Companies that want a piece of the future retail market must use their existing audience, brand identity and software infrastructure skills to create a differentiated online space for a community of consumers.
The emphasis Sony has placed on PlayStation Network this time around is there for all to see. It’s why Steam is powerful in the PC market. It’s why Microsoft arguably came out of the last generation of console hardware in the best shape; they came out of it with a more clearly defined identity for their online community & services (Xbox Live). And it’s why Amazon, with their great consumer brand, large online customer-base (hands up who doesn't have an Amazon account...?) and undoubted online web systems & services prowess, need to be taken very seriously indeed.
So does Fire TV seem like a non-event?
It will be fascinating to see which parts of the ever-growing gaming audience each eco-system can attract.
The fantastic news in all this for Frontier is that high quality, innovative game experiences will continue to rise in importance. 'Games sell hardware' was the old maxim, and it will be ever more true in this brave new world of online eco-systems. And we are happy to support them all - Frontier released Coaster Crazy Deluxe for Kindle Fire tablets on 25th December 2013 (oh the joy of digital distribution!), and the Fire TV version with controller support was available on day one of its release last week.
The game, and our Cobra engine support for Android and the Amazon Fire OS & Marketplace specifics, were all done in our Halifax, Nova Scotia studio.