Amazon has decided that selling video games is not enough. Now it wants to help developers create the games that line Amazon’s virtual shelves.
Lumberyard is a new game engine that Amazon is giving away to developers. A game engine is software that unifies all the sights, sounds, physics, and rules of a video game into a unified whole. Without an engine, your game doesn’t work.
Amazon’s profit model for Lumberyard is tied into the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform. Lumberyard is designed with multiplayer games specifically in mind. Amazon is banking on developers using its web services to do things like create multiplayer servers.
In terms of understanding the advertised quality of Lumberyard, it incorporates technology from a game engine called CryEngine, that was the engine running underneath Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which markedly raised the bar on what “photorealistic graphics” means.The game graphics that look so real, you might mistake them for the real thing.
Amazon is advertising Lumberyard as a development option for PC games, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games, and Oculus Rift, with upcoming support for iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac. Ubiquity of compatible platforms is key for the success of any game engine.
Unity is a game engine that’s particularly popular among indie devs because it’s relatively easy to take a game developed in Unity and port it over to any platform.
The mobile game Infinity Blade was such a huge deal because it demonstrated that Unreal Engine, one of the giants of game engine technology that you see employed all over the place by countless developers, could also run on mobile devices.
You can take all of this to mean that Amazon wants to make Lumberyard a serious new software option for game developers.
While Lumberyard itself is free, Amazon also hopes to make money off another, new service announced today called GameLift.
Whenever you create an online game, your need for servers to handle all the incoming data doesn’t necessarily remain constant. When the game is first released, you might have a rush of new players. Six months later you might have fewer players as they leave to try other games. Then, when you release a new expansion for the game, there’s a rush of players who are coming back to try the fresh content.
GameLift is software that among other things allows game developers to dial up or dial down the number of multiplayer servers they are renting from Amazon. This is where Amazon’s profit structure becomes obvious: Developers pay $1.50 per 1,000 users per day. When a good multiplayer game can attract tens of millions of players, well, you can do the math.
Lumberyard has been released in beta state and is currently available for download.
Illustration via Max Fleishman