Unexpectedly, Amazon has announced a free and open-source 3D game engine for developers. It's called Lumberyard, and it's a modified version of Crytek's CryEngine – that should tell you that this is meant for AAA games. The engine can create games for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Oh yeah, and the beta version is available right now. (Not to mention it supports virtual reality.)
What sets Lumberyard apart is that it's a.) also royalty-free and b.) comes with the option to integrate Amazon's cloud services, which is how the company plans to make its money with this.
Developers will have to pay to take advantages of Amazon Web Services, which will include Twitch (which Amazon bought last year), letting gamers start streaming in a couple of button presses.
Amazon GameLift, meanwhile, lets developers – or devs – easily scale multiplayer games up to support millions of players without paying out for a load of engineering work. There are others, but the point is that Amazon is offering the types of features serious devs are going to want.
While the AAA game support is there, it's the indie developers who could benefit most from Lumberyard, which offers the opportunity to try out ideas on a high-end platform that doesn't require a subscription fee.
Although it's also royalty-free, Crytek's indie subscription package costs $10 a month. Unreal is free up front but still has a royalty cost. Bigger developers will likely prefer to stick with the fully supported versions of these engines, but indie devs will probably be paying attention to Amazon's new offering.
What lies ahead
The fact that Lumberyard will support virtual reality (VR) also puts Amazon well in place for the generation of developers who will be building for VR, while the integration of Twitch is hugely appealing for obvious reasons.
Amazon has been busy in the gaming space, having bought both Twitch and Killer Instinct developer Double Helix Games in the past few years.
It also released a controller for its Fire TV, which can be used to play games from Amazon's app marketplace. However, it still hasn't got any big titles to its name, and remains relatively small as a distributor when compared to Steam or iOS.
Time will tell, but Amazon has a chance to prove itself as a serious player in the gaming space, and luring over indie developers will be a big part of making that happen. If today's announcement confirms anything, it's that Amazon is more interested than we thought when it comes to gaming beyond Android.
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