Amazon's FireTV set-top box will also act as a home console. The FireTV is billed not as a competitor to the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but as a way for people who wouldn't otherwise buy a console to play games. Amazon claims it's made the FireTV three times as powerful as its competitors from Roku, Google, and Apple, giving it a dedicated graphics processor and 2GB of RAM. This will also presumably give it a boost in gaming. To go with the FireTV, Amazon has also announced a custom controller that will sell separately for $39.99 and come with 1,000 Amazon coins ($10) to buy games. Some games will also be playable with the default remote, and multiple controllers can be synced to the box.
'Thousands' of titles will be available by May
Amazon promises "thousands" of titles will be available for the FireTV by May, including ports of popular mobile games, although that number is currently closer to a hundred. So far, two of the highlights of the FireTV's catalog are Minecraft and The Walking Dead; mobile racing title Asphalt 8 will be coming to the device. The average price of a paid game is said to be $1.85, with over a thousand free-to-play titles. Amazon's internal game studio will be helping to build out the catalog: at the event, it announced and demonstrated a combination shooter and tower defense game called Sev Zero, which will come free with the controller. A number of other games — one starring a crowd-pleasing dinosaur wearing a jetpack — were teased in a demo reel.
Amazon's Instant Video service is clearly one of the biggest points of focus on FireTV, but it's also attempting to give the box broad appeal, offering integration with video apps like Netflix and music ones like Pandora, as well as extra features that include instant photo uploading and a custom section for children. Its games service is indirectly following in the footsteps of Android-based microconsoles like the Ouya and GameStick, neither of which were critical or commercial successes: Ouya recently gave up its hardware business in order to focus on being a software platform. But unlike either of these products, Amazon isn't betting everything on gaming — just throwing it in as an extra option for buyers.
Amazon has spent the past months building its connections in the gaming world. Last year, it reportedly urged Android developers to build in support for gamepads, and it's been recruiting for its internal development studio. In February, it acquired Double Helix Games, the studio behind Xbox One launch title Killer Instinct. Strider, the last Double Helix game developed before the acquisition, was released not long after to moderately positive reviews. Among other set-top box leaks, images of Amazon's controller were discovered in mid-March on a Brazilian regulatory agency website. The $99 box was released today, so we'll know how well it works soon enough.