By: Dylan Lepore | @dylanslegos
The future of gaming has a new player, Amazon, as they announced Luna, Amazon’s entry into a cloud gaming service, similar to 2019’s Google Stadia.
The announcement, posted on Twitter Sept. 24, came with a shiny new announcement trailer, a description of Luna+, a few games, a cloud-based controller, and a partnership with Ubisoft.
Cloud gaming enables players to play games on devices they already own without purchasing a gaming console or a gaming PC. Games live in the cloud, so there are no lengthy downloads, installs, or updates required theoretically.
Amazon’s cloud gaming service provides a cable-like subscription service: you choose what selection of games you want from two, what Amazon calls, “game channels,” as of now.
The first game chancel is Luna+, which is in “early access pricing” for $5.99 monthly; however, as stated on the Amazon Luna website, “Your Luna+ subscription will renew at the applicable monthly subscription price after the Luna early access period is over. We will notify you at least 30 days in advance of the end of early access to ensure you are informed of the new monthly subscription price, along with information on how to manage your subscription. You may cancel your subscription at any time.”
Meaning that the Luna+ $5.99 monthly price tag will not be there forever and could raise at, below, or above Google Stadia’s $9.99 monthly price point.
With that price in mind, Luna+ says it will offer unlimited hours of play, a growing library of games, up to 1080p/60fps with 4K support coming soon, streaming on two devices at a time, and playing on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and web apps for iPhone and iPad.
You can use the Luna app on:
- PC (requires Windows 10 with support for DirectX 11)
- Mac (OSX 10.13+)
- FireTV devices (Fire TV Stick - 2nd gen, Fire TV Stick 4K, or Fire TV Cube - 2nd gen)
Additionally you can use:
- Chrome web browser (version 83+) for PC and Mac
- Safari web browser (iOS14) for iPhone and iPad
“We are working to add support across more devices in the future,” the Amazon Luna website states.
The other channel is the Ubisoft game channel, which isn’t priced yet and stated on the Amazon Luna website as “coming soon.”
According to a press release from Ubisoft, “Players can subscribe to the new Ubisoft gaming channel and get access to Ubisoft games at up to 4K resolution on Luna, including games from Ubisoft’s back catalog as well as new releases like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Immortals Fenyx Rising, which, once the channel launches, will be available on the service on the same day they launch on other platforms.”
However, unlike Luna+, players who pay for the Ubisoft game channel can stream on only one device at a time, and Ubisoft will offer ultimate editions with DLC for select titles.
The Luna Controller
The Amazon Luna controller is something of importance. Instead of connecting the controller through Bluetooth, players can connect it to their home wifi, similar to how Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home connects to the cloud.
This cloud connection or “Cloud Direct” allows players to stop having to resync the Luna controller on different devices every time they want to play on something else, and, as stated by Amazon, this helps reduces controller feedback latency by not having to send button commands or “code” to the devices reducing latency by between 17 and 30 milliseconds.
The controller looks similar to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller layout and also connects to Alexa. Players will be able to ask Alexa to play games as well as the usual assistant-enabled commands.
If players don’t want to use the $49.99 Luna Controller, an Xbox One controller, DualShock 4 controller, and a mouse and keyboard will work as well; however, as stated by Amazon, the “Luna Controller supports Bluetooth and USB for offline play on many devices [but the] Luna controller is not licensed for play on game consoles.”
Luna + Twitch
With Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch Interactive Aug. 25, 2014, for US$970 million, streaming will play a significant role in the Luna service.
According to a press release from Ubisoft, “Luna will also feature Twitch integration, allowing players to go from watching streams of their favorite games to playing instantly, as well as support for Alexa – Amazon’s cloud-based voice service. ‘At the service level, it’ll be a lot easier to integrate with Twitch and to use Twitch from the game itself,’ Chris Early, senior vice president of partnerships at Ubisoft, says. ‘When it becomes part of the platform infrastructure, it becomes easier for us because we don’t have to do as much of the integration ourselves. And when you look at something like Hyper Scape, it already has really strong Twitch integration across a variety of platforms. For Alexa, the primary benefit there is to use it the same way you would use it for Prime Video, so you could just say, ‘Alexa, play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.’ And if a game integrates with Alexa, then a development team could explore what they do with voice.’”
Only customers who have received an invitation to Luna may purchase a Luna Controller, and early access will be issued on a rolling basis. If a players invitation is granted, Amazon will notify them via email.
No specific date for the Luna launch was given, but the press release says the invite-only period makes it so “players will have the opportunity to contribute feedback that will inform future Luna features and development.”
Luna is supported across mainland US but currently does not support Hawaii, Alaska, and US territories.