Amazon Luna: five things you need to know

Amazon Luna
(Image credit: Amazon)

At the September Amazon Event, the tech giant introduced a host of new products in its Ring and Echo line – and out of nowhere, introduced Amazon Luna, a game streaming service to rival Google Stadia and GeForce Now

Yes, there’s another game streaming service to choose from, adding yet another option to play cutting-edge games on virtually anything with a screen. And Luna has some similarities with existing services: similar to Google Stadia, Amazon Luna has its own optional custom controller, which costs $49 (around £38 / AU$69), though folks can opt to use a current console controller or mouse and keyboard instead. 

But there’s a few Amazon-specific twists that differentiate it from the competition.

The first is price: instead of tiers, the Luna service breaks its gaming catalog up into channels, with Luna Plus being a selection of games Amazon has already licensed. Luna Plus costs an introductory rate of $6 per month (under £5 / AU$9), making it cheaper than other services. The only other confirmed channel is Ubisoft, which has a separate (and not yet defined) subscription fee to access its own catalog of games.

Another is the range of devices to stream to: so far, you can stream Luna gameplay over Mac, PC, iPhones and iPads (Android support coming soon), and interestingly, Fire TV devices. 

A last interesting note: you can play on two devices simultaneously, which implies that you and a friend or family member can play games at the same time (and potentially together) on the same account. 

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the service, which will be revealed in time. But here are the five big questions we can answer today.

You can play soon – but only in the US

You can request early access for Amazon Luna right here, but only if you’re located in the US (and for now, only the continental US – Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories will have to wait). Sorry, international users, we couldn’t even get a VPN to work: it requires you to sign up with your region-locked Amazon account first. 

Those selected for early access will be notified via email, and will be able to start using Luna at some point in October. When they can, they’ll have to start paying the monthly subscription fee for Luna Plus after a 7-day free trial. 

Amazon Luna

(Image credit: Amazon)

50 games are playable on Luna Plus, with more to follow

One distinction here: Luna is the platform, and you can choose which channels you subscribe to and access their games. Amazon’s main selection is in the Luna Plus channel, which is the only one you can currently subscribe to. So, what games are on Luna Plus?

The introductory slate of 50 games on Luna Plus seems pretty broad, from AAA games like Resident Evil 7, Control, and Panzer Dragoon to titles from smaller publishers like A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Surge 2, and Yooka-Laylee and The Impossible Lair, Abzu, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. 

You’ll note most of these aren’t terribly new, but we’ll wait to see the whole list to pass judgment. The list is expected to grow to over 100 titles by the end of the early access period. 

The Ubisoft channel will also be available during early access, coming in the fall (Q3 2020), with a catalog starting at 50 of the publisher’s titles. Both that and the Luna Plus channel are expected to add more games over the weeks and months – and in Ubisoft’s case, this will include brand-new titles like Assassins Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Immortals Fenyx Rising, which will be playable on Luna the day they launch.

Amazon Luna

(Image credit: Amazon)

You don’t need the Luna Controller to play

You can buy the Luna Controller if you want, but it isn’t required. If you want, you can play on Xbox One and PS4 controllers, or mouse and keyboard. It’s unclear if controllers from the new consoles will work on Luna, or if you’ll be able to play using touch controls when streaming on mobile devices (though we doubt it). 

There are reasons to pick up the $49 Luna Controller, though. Since the gamepad connects directly to the cloud, it reduces lag by 17ms to 30ms, according to Amazon’s testing. That direct connection also means players won’t have to calibrate the controller with each new device they switch their gameplay session to, essentially allowing you to seamlessly play as the game is handed off between mobile phones, computers, and Fire TV devices

Naturally, the Luna Controller comes with Alexa. It also has Bluetooth and USB connectivity, so you can theoretically use it on other platforms, though it’s not licensed to play on game consoles. Oh, and you can only buy a Luna Controller if you make it into early access.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

What can I play Luna games on?

You can stream Luna games using native apps on PC (Windows 10 with support for DirectX 11), Mac (OSX 10.13 and newer), and Fire TV devices (Fire TV Stick - 2nd gen, Fire TV Stick 4K, or Fire TV Cube - 2nd gen). 

You can also play through the Chrome web browser (version 83 and newer) on PC and Mac, if you so choose.

Funny enough, playing on iPhones and iPads also works through a browser. You’ll essentially play through Safari, requiring iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, respectively. Why the workaround? Apple isn’t taking too kindly to challengers to its App Store conditions right now, and has kept its Microsoft xCloud ban in place. 

What’s the minimum bandwidth for basic service and 4K?

Amazon Luna requires a minimum of 10 Mbps for standard games, and 35 Mbps for playing games in 4K. Note that most games will stream in 1080p, with only select titles available in 4K.

While Amazon didn’t state how much data players should expect Luna to gobble while streaming, the platform’s official FAQ (at the bottom of the Luna website) did note that cloud gaming in general can "consume up to 10GB/hr at 1080p", so that’s at least a benchmark to go by.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.