The outlook for game streaming services is not as rosy as it might have once been. Stadia, Google’s attempt to break into gaming, was recently put out to pasture. Luna itself, while rolling out to new platforms like smart TVs, is losing over 50 titles just in the month of February. Amazon is also tightening its belt, laying off workers, and reconsidering what it continues to invest in. With all of that in mind, it’s worth asking: does Amazon Luna make it out of 2023 unscathed?
Luna has its charms
Amazon introduced Luna in 2020, a development that despite the already grim outlook for Stadia, made a fair bit of sense. The company is known for its retail business and growing media empire, but Amazon’s real gravy train is Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud infrastructure it provides for services like Netflix and Facebook. At the heart of any good cloud gaming subscription is a buttload of servers, so Amazon seems well positioned, just like Microsoft is with Azure, to offer a reliable streaming experience.
Luna became widely available to Amazon Prime subscribers on June 21, 2021. Unlike Stadia, Amazon’s service is based around a channel model, where subscribing to specific channels (Luna+, Ubisoft+, etc.) grants you access to specific kinds of games. Any Prime member who uses Luna is also guaranteed a few games from Amazon each month on a rotating basis.
Amazon offers a Luna controller and distinct software features like a remote couch co-op mode, but the actual experience of loading up a game and starting to play is as about as frictionless as any other service. Luna is not trying to be radically different, and with fewer competitors in the field, maybe there’s less pressure to.
Content is still key
Similarly, there isn’t an inherent issue with Luna’s library changing. Even if Luna has less than 175 games after February, as CloudDosage has calculated it will, that shouldn’t matter if the remaining games are great, right? But that’s consistency hard to guarantee. In fact, the biggest exclusive Luna has going for it is Ubisoft+, Ubisoft’s subscription service for everything from Far Cry to Assassin’s Creed, which isn’t looking so hot either given Ubisoft’s difficulty releasing new games over the last year.
When asked to comment on Luna’s changing library and if Amazon’s strategy for its streaming service had shifted, an Amazon spokesperson said:
Our goal with Amazon Luna has always been to keep our selection as fresh as possible and to offer a wide array of high-quality, immersive games for our customers. With that in mind, we’re continuously refreshing our content offerings.
I’m partially inclined to believe Amazon is still committed, if only because its frequent failure to wedge itself into gaming hasn’t seemed to stop it so far. Twitch remains a cultural powerhouse, and Luna pairs as well with Amazon’s creator platform as Stadia did with YouTube.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the service is a lot less enticing than it was at launch, and running a game streaming service at all is a much harder sell than it used to be. Hardware isn’t the only reason Microsoft hasn’t debuted its streaming stick for Game Pass Ultimate. The infrastructure, cultural appetite, and most importantly, game library, just aren’t there yet. Microsoft has billions of dollars sunk on enriching Xbox and Game Pass, but I’m not as convinced Amazon will keep Luna around in its current form until it has its own recipe down.