Last week we reported on Amazon Game Studios laying off employees during E3 2019, and today there’s a new report in the Wall Street Journal that claims the megacorporation’s game development division seems to be struggling to advance in the industry, and most of the issues encountered by the developers at the studio can be rooted in the company’s licensed engine, known as Lumberyard, which is based on Crytek’s CryEngine, by some accounts a very complex and difficult to use technology that was only made available for non-commercial game development in 2011. Prior to that, the engine was custom made for internal use at Crytek. The Wall Street Journal relies on a few undisclosed sources to detail these issues:
“In spite of our efforts, we didn’t achieve the breakthrough that made the game what we all hoped it could be,” Amazon staff wrote in a Reddit post last year revealing the cancellation of “Breakaway,” one of the three PC games it announced. The company had described it as an online multiplayer “mythological sports brawler.”
One additional PC game was never announced publicly but has been canceled, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon Game Studios last year released a car-racing title called “Grand Tour Game” for consoles, but it has sold poorly.
The software, a so-called engine known as Lumberyard, wasn’t built for the kind of multiplayer games Amazon wanted to make, and the company’s efforts to retool it have proved difficult, the current and former employees said. As a result, making “Breakaway,” for example, was like driving a train while the tracks were still being laid down, these people explained.
“They’re still ironing out the kinks of what it means to own and maintain your own engine,” said a developer working at Amazon Game Studios, referring to a separate team responsible for Lumberyard.
Lumberyard was also announced as the engine of Star Citizen by its creator Chris Roberts in 2016, and as of last December the company was still facing a lawsuit from Crytek over its use of Crytek’s CryEngine. Lumberyard forms the base of the studio’s Star Engine, a heavily modified version of the CryEngine derivative Lumberyard. Last month we also reported on mismanagement at Cloud Imperium Games, following several complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.
It’s still up in the air whether Amazon’s game development division will ever release a title since its move to AAA game development with a proper studio in 2014. Until then, Amazon had focused mostly on mobile games. Two years after the studio’s initial announcement, at the September 2016 TwitchCon, they revealed their first three games: Breakaway, Crucible, and New World. Breakaway (Our 2017 Preview) was canceled in March last year. In June, the alpha test for New World ended and the servers shut down after 9 months, with no word on the project since. It is worth considering as well that Amazon owns Twitch, which attempted to get into the game store market, before quietly backing away in November of last year.
Amazon certainly doesn’t lack the resources to pursue game development, so perhaps if they manage to develop their own in-house engine, as many AAA developers do, they just might manage to release a proper game. Or perhaps, having attempted to cheat around that in a way with Lumberyard, they’ll move onto using a more industry standard solution like Unreal Engine.
Correction: We’ve cleaned up how we referred to Lumberyard and Star Citizen in the story. Apologies for any misunterstandings.
Do you think we will ever see a successful Amazon Game Studios Game? Or will the developer get shut down by Amazon? Let us know in the comments below!