Fire TV – Amazon poach Kim Swift and Clint Hocking

explores the recent developments behind Amazon’s Fire TV and their acquisition of two prominent game designers

Photo credit: Pierre Lecourt

Photo credit: Pierre Lecourt

Just a few days after the release of the Amazon Fire TV, Amazon has signed up game designers Kim Swift and Clint Hocking to work for its own Amazon Game Studios. Having secured a pair of talented and well-known designers, who will presumably be working on titles for the Fire TV and Kindle Fire, Amazon appears to be taking the gaming side of its microconsole much more seriously than previously thought.

The Fire TV allows users to watch television programs on demand as well as watch films and listen to music – similar to its competitors, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. Having just been released in the USA, users can access Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and many other streaming services. The main difference between Amazon’s microconsole and its rivals is that the Fire TV has the capability to play video games that are more than just mobile games. Inside is a quad-core, 1.7 GHz Snapdragon processor, as well as 2GB of RAM. A dedicated game controller is also available for $40.

While Amazon may not be trying to compete with the likes of Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, the acquisition of Kim Swift and Clint Hocking shows a clear effort to make exciting, new games. Both Swift and Hocking have a history of making great games: Swift was part of the team responsible for Portal during her time at Valve, and Hocking, who also spent some time at Valve, previously worked on titles such as Splinter Cell and Far Cry 2.

What sort of games should we expect to come out of Amazon Game Studios? The answer seems to be titles that can be placed somewhere between mobile games and console games. At the moment games for Fire TV range from $1 to $6, and according to Amazon the average price of a game will be $1.85, backing up their claim to be offering better value for money than the eighth generation consoles. Titles currently available on Fire TV include Minecraft, Asphalt 8, and Amazon Game Studios’ very own Sev Zero, a sci-fi third person shooter.

Photo credit: Pierre Lecourt

Photo credit: Pierre Lecourt

Graphically these games are unremarkable, but that’s beside the point. The Fire TV’s catalogue of games tries to appeal to both casual and experienced gamers, and whether this can be accomplished is still a big question. With talented designers now working for Amazon Game Studios there seems to be a good chance of some exciting games being produced. Amazon is hoping that the software available to consumers will help to sell the hardware and, with the likes of Swift and Hocking being involved, things are looking promising.

When it comes to specifics, Amazon has avoided giving away anything. Little is known about what Swift and Hocking will be working on. At best we can speculate that Amazon is trying to cover as many genres as possible; Hocking’s primarily worked on first-person shooters and stealth games while Swift has experience with puzzle games. On their website, Amazon Game Studios’ ‘Sneak Peek’ video shows a montage of possible future projects covering just about every genre, but the question remains as to whether any of this will result in a good stream of games.

Amazon’s secrecy stretches to the extent that no UK release date has been announced, and there’s little indication as to what price UK customers can expect to pay for the Fire TV itself, the controller or any of the games that will be available. Progress being made by the Amazon Games Studios is promising, but whether the Fire TV will ever amount to much is up for speculation. What is certain is that Apple TV and Google Chromecast have yet another serious competitor to deal with, one that is attracting a lot of attention from the gaming community.

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