The video game industry is the biggest in all of entertainment, and as streaming services launch into failure and movie theaters are existentially in limbo, gaming is doing better than ever. Sales are up, streaming is up, viewership is up, eSports are replacing regular sports, and the end of this year brings new gaming consoles.
For all of these reasons and more, it should be a terrific time to launch a new game. The summer is usually a dry season for new releases, kids are stuck at home without school or camp, and there are plenty of opportunities to get gamers' attention right now.
So when Amazon Game Studios ($NASDAQ:AMZN) announced a free-to-play shooter for PCs back in 2014, this was the chance to break into the gaming industry in a big way. Amazon owns Twitch, the main platform everyone uses to watch games, and would be able to use Twitch to push its products in a big way. Enter Crucible, which launched recently, and melded popular genres into a multiplayer fantasy world with lots of interesting looking characters and had an eSports hook to it. Surely, everything mentioned so far in the past three paragraphs should lead to a fantastic opening week for the game. Right?
Wrong. Crucible stumbled out of the gate with mediocre review scores, as compiled by Metacritic, and had a very tepid player base at launch. The launch of a game is usually the most popular time in terms of eyeballs and new players, but Crucible fell flat on its face after the first few days. Negative word of mouth with players is incredibly hard to get over, and it seems Amazon Game Studios spent a lot of time and money on a lemon. It happens, but this is clearly not the dent Amazon wanted to put into the industry.
The horrible part for Amazon is that their window to get a lot of attention is now closed, barring anything extraordinary or miraculous. This week, Sony had a highly publicized preview for The Last of Us Part II, a sequel to one of the highest-rated games of all time. They broadcast a 20-minute gameplay and story trailer, narrated by the director of the game, which got over a million views so far.
This is the kind of buzz, the level of interest, Amazon wasn't able to generate with Crucible. Naughty Dog, the developer of The Last of Us, broke three million Twitter followers this week, and when the game releases in June we expect these numbers to go up even further. It may be a harsh comparison, to pit a Game of the Year contender up against a new intellectual property from an unproven studio, but these are two shooter games coming out around the same time with powerful publishers behind them spending a lot of money on marketing.
When you release a new IP, you'd do anything to get the kind of hype behind The Last of Us. Amazon, with its infinite pockets and unlimited checks to spend, just couldn't get a good enough game out there in time. Gaming is the one industry Amazon hasn't been able to crack, and it remains to be seen if their second big title coming out next year, New World, will have the splash Crucible did not.
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