Why Has Amazon Failed to Break Into Videogames?
We’ve talked about this before, but Amazon–despite being a juggernaut in just about every other industry–does not have a great track record when it comes to making videogames. The company’s attempt at an Overwatch clone, Crucible, was such a disaster that it got pulled five months after months. Most games are hit or miss, of course, but most of the other projects which came out of Amazon Game Studios have been misses. According to Jason Schreier, i.e. that one guy who warned us about Cyberpunk 2077, and fellow Bloomburg writer Priya Anand, there’s a very simple reason behind this consistent pattern of failure: Mike Frazzini, the guy in charge of Amazon Game Studios, has no history of making games.
Why has Amazon failed to break into video games? Interviews with 30+ current and former employees point to one root problem: the guy in charge had never made a game before. He’d hire veteran devs… then ignore them.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 29, 2021
“Frazzini is an Amazon lifer who came up in the books section of the website, where he endeared himself to Jeff Bezos as a manager there,” said Schreier and Anand. “Conventional wisdom inside the company is that if you can run one business, you can run any other.” Unsurprisingly, this did not prove accurate in the videogame field. Experienced developers would give him advice or make decisions, get tired of being ignored or undercut, and leave the studio. The decision to create their own in-house game tools rather than rely on outside programs made things worse, on account of those in-house tools not working correctly.
The work environment grew increasingly toxic, especially for women. “One aspect of working at Amazon felt similar to traditional game companies,” the article reported. “The studios cultivated a “bro culture” in which women often weren’t given the same opportunities as men, former employees say. Four female game developers say their worst experiences of sexism in the industry were at Amazon.”
This is bad, but has it reached the point of no return? Probably not. Amazon Game Studios can still turn things around, but to do so, they’ll need to change the work environment for the better and come up with game ideas that actually stand out from the competition. Chasing trends is far from a guaranteed success in a market as fast-paced as this. Most of the big names in the gaming industry are either constantly pushing the boundaries or have found one thing they do well and polished it to a mirror sheen. Either way, there’s no guarantee that every project will be the new Call of Duty. Focus on making something good first.
Amazon Games Studios is currently working on its upcoming MMO New World, which is expected to launch in spring 2021.