Amazon Games’ Relentless Studios to Roll Out First AAA Title

Amazon Game Studios will release “Crucible” — its first big budget original game — on May 20. In the free-to-play PC hero-shooter developed by Amazon’s Relentless Studios, the user plays as one of ten hunters, each with his or her own weapons and abilities, all of them battling for Essence, a resource that enhances those abilities. Amazon has game studios in Seattle, San Diego, Orange County (Southern California) and San Francisco, with such home-grown executives as vice president of games Mike Frazzini, who has been with Amazon for 16 years.

Engadget reports that “Crucible,” which is Amazon’s first AAA title, features three modes: Heart of the Hives, which pits two four-player teams against each other; Harvester Command, in which two squads of eight players race to earn 100 points; and Alpha Hunters, in which eight pairs of hunters fight a mini-battle royale. “Crucible” will be available on Steam, and Engadget notes that, “it remains to be seen exactly how the game will tie into Twitch, which Amazon owns.”

Amazon also plans to release “the long-awaited” MMO PC game “New World” in August and is working on Project Tempo, a cloud gaming platform “that could compete with Google Stadia, GeForce Now and Project xCloud.”

VentureBeat reports that, in addition to Frazzini, “Amazon recruited folks such as Louis Castle, John Smedley, Rich Hilleman, Christoph Hartmann, and many others to run various projects and studios.” The approach to gaming at Amazon, it notes, starts with “describing the experience the player should have, based on the feedback collected” or what it calls “working backwards documents.”

According to Frazzini, “Amazon even shows those documents to players to see if it sounds right to them.” “Making games was something entirely new for us, and in part we apply some of the same methods that we use in a lot of Amazon,” said Frazzini. “You hire great people — the best in the industry — and then you give them the freedom to create and invent … It’s taking the playbook of Amazon, applying the parts that make the most sense, and then learning and adapting it for making content.”

With regard to the impact of the pandemic on Amazon Game Studios, Frazzini said that, “the teams figured out they didn’t all have the right equipment at home, and Amazon had to get it to them.” Noting that games are an iterative process, he said that teams can no longer give feedback by looking over a creator’s shoulders.

“That slowed things down, and it’s definitely created a challenge for the teams,” he said. “There’s definitely a [productivity] hit we’ve taken.” But he added that, “people are turning to games as both a form of entertainment and a way to stay connected,” saying that “some inspiration that comes from that.”