You can know it as the Everything Store. But there is part of “everything” that Amazon hasn’t cracked: video games. A new report from BloombergJason Schreier and Priya Anand shed light on why Amazon Game Studios, backed by one of the largest companies in the world, doesn’t seem like a successful video game.
The details, based on interviews with more than 30 current and former Amazon employees, paint an obvious picture that we know all too well. A contactless company throws money into an ambitious project. Managers refuse to listen to ordinary employees. Higher-level companies introduce draconian policies that hinder, rather than support, the workflow. You would think these companies would receive the memo by now.
today In particular, the alleged Amazon story is like a big case from Bad Video Game Development Yahtzee:
- First drafts for the game New world– in which you play as a colonist in a fictional 17th century America – featured hostile designs that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Native Americans. Per BloombergAmazon “hired a tribal advisor who found the portrayal was indeed offensive.” New world, which was originally scheduled for release in August 2020, is now scheduled for release in spring 2021.
- Developers at Amazon Game Studios had to use a proprietary development tool called Lumberyard. (You may have read about it in one piece similarly excellent reporting by WiredCecilia D’Anastasio from last October.) In 2018, Amazon brought on Christoph Hartmann, a Take Two veteran, as Vice President of Game Studios. He relaxed the “mandate” that forced everyone to use Lumberyard.
- “Bro Culture” is reportedly ubiquitous in Amazon’s game development studios. A woman told Bloomberg After a disagreement with a male senior executive, he made several new positions above her and hired men in those roles.
- Amazon has brought in famous developers who have worked on popular series like portal and Far away. Only one of them remains.
- The head of the entire games department, Mike Frazzini, had never made a video game before. He reportedly frustrated developers with basic settings and had trouble distinguishing between gameplay and conceptual material.
- Instead of coming up with new concepts, Amazon pushed for settings for other popular games. A project called nova, inspired by League of Legendswas canceled in 2017. One called intensity, triggered by Fourteen days‘s amazing success was banned in 2019. And then there is the misfortune Overwatch-to like crucibleplanted so hard in the face it was released and then released last year.
- Amazon Luna, the company’s foray into the hot games on demand arena, doesn’t even fall under the gaming division. It’s headed by David Limp, who heads Amazon’s device division (responsible for physical products like the Kindle and the Echo).
If you are looking for yet another story of persistent misdirection and misguided decisions in the video game industry, BloombergBehind the scenes at Amazon Game Studios is worth reading in full.