Amazon Game Studios

6 or 7 years ago they had a bigger push and took a number of indie projects under their wing. I’m familiar with two studios who got to be a part of this, and it wasn’t exactly a sweet ending since they basically got dropped over night. Not at the same time, but the stories sounded similar, and it seemed more down to strategic shifts at AGS rather than the quality of the product they were working on.

That’s not just half a billion dollars. That’s half a billion dollars per year.

I’m amazed Bezos still hasn’t blown a gasket over that.

How do you have Clint Hocking, budget of 500 million per year, and fail. Just…wow.

And another one down the drain. Inc.’s embattled video game division has canceled an online role-playing game based on the fantasy series Lord of the Rings, which was announced in 2019, in another setback for the technology giant.

The game had been in development at Amazon Game Studios alongside the China-based Leyou Technologies Holdings Ltd., which was purchased by conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd. in December. The resulting contract negotiations led to a dispute between Amazon and Tencent that eventually caused the game’s cancellation, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that after Tencent’s acquisition of Leyou, “we have been unable to secure terms to proceed with this title at this time.”

The Amazon team working on the game will be moved to other projects. “We love the Lord of the Rings IP, and are disappointed that we won’t be bringing this game to customers,” the spokesperson for the Seattle-based company said in a statement.

But on the upside they’re spending 465 million on the first season of LOTR, haha.

Sorry, laughed out loud just typing that out.

You see Amazon and Google throwing money not just at gaming infrastructure, but actual game development, and getting little in return. Meanwhile, when the original Playstation was new and relevant, Sony managed to somehow build/amass/establish a number of rock solid 1st party teams. I’ve always wondered what they differently that these other companies aren’t (I know the answer is probably complicated, and won’t boil down to one single thing, but still. I ponder.)

Sony, being a Japanese company, had development in Japan as well as the US and UK when they built PlayStation. They also had something truly unique that appealed to developers in 1995, a system built for 3D, which was the hotness.

Namco built arcade games on essentially PlayStation hardware and brought them home. Psygnosis, already pushing graphics, built Wipeout. Higher ups said 3D or else in the two markets outside Japan and the rest is history. It made Sega Saturn look “old” (even if its 2D capability was unmatched and amazing) and by the time Nintendo arrived, the CD was established and publishers didn’t want to pay to make cartridges.

In today’s world, everything is a PC, and unless you define a platform through some alternate means (such as Nintendo with Switch and its home/portable concept) then your games are just… games. There’s no true platform to help sell it, especially for an Amazon just trying to break in somehow, anyhow, that they can.

All that money and I bet it will still have mediocre writing.

Highlights related to any game developed in the employee’s own time with no Amazon involvement:

" I grant to Amazon a royalty free, worldwide, fully paid-up, perpetual, transferrable license to any and all of my intellectual property rights associated with the Personal Game and my Personal Game development.

This agreement provides me with an opportunity for personal development and creative expression and not a means for competing with Amazon Games Studio or operating a meaningful commercial endeavor. As such, under this agreement I may collaborate on Personal Games only with other Amazon Employees who are eligible under this policy and who have accepted the terms of this agreement, or with minor dependents in my household. I will not work on Personal Games with anyone else."

Seems normal 😒

It’s also dystopian that your game has to use all Amazon/AWS services etc.

Jesus. This sounds like, “Hey, I’ll write my great American novel on my own time, but according to this contract, Amazon can turn it into a movie and TV show and merchandise without paying me!”

Not quite - they also get the novel too!

Does anyone know if this is applied to everyone who works at Amazon or just those employed by ‘Amazon Game Studios’?

If the latter, from all the reports on working conditions I just assumed that anyone working as a game developer is so time-starved they wouldn’t have any ‘free time’ to begin with. Hopefully with enough negative public attention on this they will feel pressured to change it.

I would guess it is just the games studio.

Seems like they may be giving up on making their own games, and just want to hand out the engine that uses AWS now and get their money that way with no/less dev costs/risks. Makes sense as a move with the history. Has New World been swapped to the new engine or is it still Lumberyard?

I saw contracts like this in areas where patent hoarding was common too. I also declined to sign the agreement as written with one major employer opening their first US branch. You have a pretty good chance of asking them to modify if your side business has no cross over with the job’s business. Clearly not the case with an indie game dev working at a game studio. They will say things you learn on the job may contribute in some way to your capabilities in your private job. So I suspect other than not signing at Amazon Game Studios you have little recourse.

My side job was horse training, and the company was in prescription pharmaceuticals. I was able to convince their lawyer it was in neither of our interests for them to own a patent on, say, a horse bit. So they wrote a clause to exclude any discoveries I may make that are not related to the company’s main business.

What I wonder is what you are @Tim_N , what if Amazon still thinks they would benefit from making whatever you do run in AWS, even if it is not a game? If it can run on AWS, Amazon can benefit. If they can benefit, they will want the clause.

Working there, when I started working there the budget I got was amazing. I could hire like, I almost thought like stars in my eyes, oh my god, I’m gonna be able to do like, all the things I’ve always wanted to do when I’ve been at all these other companies. But when you work at a big company there’s a lot of bureaucracy you have to go through. And that’s the thing. When I started this with these guys, I was like, we cannot be slow, we have to move fast, we have to be able to pivot, we have to be able to like throw away code, throw away ideas on the fly, if it’s not working out. If customers are upset about a certain feature, we need to fix it. We can’t just be writing up all these, you know, PowerPoint presentations or theses to like, try to think about our philosophy about solving this. I really wanted us to move fast to catch up with like, how development goes in the games industry.

When you start to grow your company and even when you’re over like 30 people, it starts to get a little slow, but when you’re over hundreds of people, there’s lots of red tape you have to go through to get anything done. Or even you’re building components like, oh, we’ve got a store, and then we’ve got like, you know, 300 people going through all the stuff. Oh, what’s wrong? Oh, can you help them? It’s slow.

Trigger warning for those who get annoyed seeing the word ‘like’ in every other sentence.

You know, like, stuff

Isn’t an experienced journalist supposed to filter out these words and make it readable?