Amazon CEO says video games could become the largest entertainment business

Games could end up being the largest entertainment category over the long haul, Mr Andy Jassy, the chief executive officer, said on Oct 5 at a technology conference.
Games could end up being the largest entertainment category over the long haul, Mr Andy Jassy, the chief executive officer, said on Oct 5 at a technology conference.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Amazon.com had long struggled to make a good video game. Now that it finally has a hit release, the company is predicting a bright future for that business.

Games could end up being the largest entertainment category over the long haul, Mr Andy Jassy, the chief executive officer, said Tuesday (Oct 5) at a technology conference.

It is a bold pronouncement for a company with almost a decade of failures in gaming and one that just renewed its commitment to the movie business in the form of an US$8.45 billion (S$11.5 billion) acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

A week ago, Amazon released New World, an online computer game where archers and axe wielders colonise a mythical land.

Mr Jassy said it is off to a "great start" and has a couple million active players a day. Interest from gamers and from viewers on Amazon's livestreaming website Twitch has sustained over the last week, and the first four online reviews were generally positive, with an average score of 81 per cent on the aggregator website Metacritic.

Even before Mr Jassy became CEO in July, he oversaw Amazon's effort to break into video games.

The division, which debuted in 2012, faced years of turmoil. Bloomberg chronicled the arduous journey in a story in January with the headline, "Amazon Can make just about anything - except a good video game."

"There were a lot of articles written, people saying things like, Amazon knows how to build everything but games, why can't they build games?" Mr Jassy said at the event Tuesday hosted by the Seattle tech news site GeekWire.

"It takes a few before you find a hit, or several, but they didn't lose their resolve."

Amazon released its first major video game title Crucible in May 2020. It was met with scathing reviews, and the company quickly retreated. It scrapped Crucible entirely a year ago and gave customers refunds. "You're going to have some games fail spectacularly," Mr Jassy said.

After the warm reception to New World, Mr Jeff Bezos promptly declared it a win. "After many failures and setbacks in gaming we have a success," the former CEO tweeted on Friday, three days after release. "Don't give up no matter how hard it gets."

He then posted a link to the Bloomberg story from January that detailed the company's failings in gaming.

Although early signs are encouraging, experts advise caution. "It's way too early to say it's a hit. It's not a disaster, you could say," said Mr David Cole, an analyst at DFC Intelligence, which tracks the video game industry. "It's not what we consider a huge game, in the sense that if it wasn't Amazon, I don't think you would be paying that much attention to it."

Critics rate the game as good but not exceptional. "I don't know if I'm terribly bored or having a great time," PC Gamer wrote.

More than 77,000 reviews on Steam indicate players' opinions are mixed, though the game saw a barrage of negative comments due to lengthy queues to access the online world.

On Tuesday, about a week after its release, New World at one point had more than 662,000 people playing at one time on Steam, making it the top game by player count. On Twitch, it was being watched by hundreds of thousands of people.