When Amazon started a hiring spree of prominent video game developers several years ago, the typically quiet Seattle company didn’t say much about what it planned to do with all of those industry luminaries.
That left their peers at competitors to speculate: Would Amazon try to break into console hardware and challenge Microsoft and Sony? Amass internal game development studios like Ubisoft or EA? Built on Amazon-owned Twitch to make the company a neutral marketplace for content made by others?
The answer, a few years later, is characteristically Amazonian. They’re doing a little bit of everything, with an emphasis on projects that, if they succeed, are likely to boost other arms of the company. To date, that includes marketplaces, experimental games for Amazon-built streaming boxes, and software tools for game builders.
The latest example arrived this week in “The Grand Tour Game,” an episodic racing game tied to the Amazon Studios television series. Amazon says players will be able to act out the automotive feats they see in the upcoming third season of the show on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with new content each week of the show.
Diagramming the different Amazon units involved in the game is a map of the company’s evolution into a conglomerate: Amazon Game Studios developers in Seattle built the game to promote a television show produced by the California-based Amazon Studios filmed content arm, using tools built by the Amazon Web Services cloud-computing group.
The game’s announcement, at Gamescom in Germany this week, quoted Craig Sullivan, who spent years working on the EA-owned “Need for Speed” racing franchise before Amazon hired him away last year. Like many games teased at industry trade shows, “The Grand Tour Game” doesn’t yet have a release date or price.
Racing games are a staple of the industry, a way for developers to show off their skill at designing worlds whose look and physics feel like the real world. By that measure, “The Grand Tour Game” isn’t a rival to the big guys.
Journalists who tried the demo this week said it was a decent reflection of the show’s humor, but lacked polish. Game news site IGN said the game was “decidedly average,” and “simply doesn’t compare” to the benchmarks set by racing game franchises like Microsoft’s “Forza.”
Not to worry. As Amazonians like to say, it’s still Day One.