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Amazon is staffing up to take on Google's Stadia and Microsoft's xCloud

2 weeks ago by Jared Russo in Big Tech

There's a battle brewing between Amazon ($NASDAQ:AMZN), Microsoft ($NASDAQ:MSFT), and Google ($NASDAQ:GOOG), as each readies for the console-less future of gaming.

By now, Google Stadia, the new cloud gaming device powered by Chromecast, is landing in consumers' living rooms. It’s a bold move designed to take on the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox, in a future Google and Amazon hope is console-free. Hiring for the service and technology sides of the business at Google have taken off since the official announcement earlier this year.

And Microsoft is also getting in on the action with xCloud going into beta. There have been multiple reports of other companies doing the same.

Amazon's bold initiative

At Amazon, job-listing data reveals the Seattle e-commerce giant has listed specific jobs to its careers site in the past two years that show a steady ramp-up in the space.

Amazon will utilize the power of its cloud service AWS to get players to buy and play games through them. It's the first big attempt to woo gamers since the purchase of streaming site Twitch back in 2014. Some of the more recent — and pertinent — positions at Amazon include:

From what we could find, there have been more than 30 individual job openings that hint at this Stadia competitor since 2017.  

The trouble ahead

But is cloud gaming really poised to dethrone Sony, Microsoft, and whoever else steps into the ring? Despite all the job postings, streaming as the primary way to purchase and play games comes with some major challenges. We spoke with gaming industry veteran Garnett Lee, who helps point out the stark reality facing Amazon and Google.

"Online infrastructure figures into a number of interesting futures for video games. So far, streaming initiatives seem focused on providing a replacement for a gaming PC or console in the home," said Lee. "In hopes of asserting the technology advantage of cloud computing, the story fixates on the massive capabilities of servers and solutions to delivering that potential to homes."

We already know that Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings MMO game in its Lumberyard engine, but with the information we can glean from hiring data, it seems as though that will be its potential killer app for the new streaming platform. 

"Imagine instead a content first streaming video game service. Its games deliver new experiences that capitalize on cloud computing strengths like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and client agnostic access," said Lee. "Games that, while they could be played on a dedicated home machine, count as one access point of many, and not an inherently better one. Yes, these games are in fact coming."

The worldwide web

This could all be a part of a masterplan to dominate the internet, if Amazon gets its way. The plan to bring forth a nationwide broadband service just passed FCC approval, and considering the feedback Google has gotten about its Stadia performance after its launch, it might be the only way to make a permanent dent in how we play video games.

"So far, streaming initiatives seem focused on providing a replacement for a gaming PC or console in the home. In hopes of asserting the technology advantage of cloud computing, the story fixates on the massive capabilities of servers and solutions to delivering that potential to homes. Last-mile infrastructure and bandwidth caps alone make this a losing argument in the modern world," Lee said.

"Though internet speeds continue to improve, their stability poses a whole other challenge both for the last mile and inside the home. Even on gigabit service streaming video sees hiccups here and there. While high throughput allows a quick recovery for video, the same cannot be said for video gaming," said Lee. "And while better switchgear eventually solves those tech questions, the looming specter of bandwidth caps poses a conflict between two businesses."

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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Jared Russo

Jared is an editor for Thinknum, and has been writing for more than a decade. He previously worked at AOL, Vice, Google, Dotdash, and Sirius XM.

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