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Amazon launches free triple-A game engine

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Amazon has launched a new game engine named Lumberyard — and it's giving it away for free. The company says the software is capable of building triple-A games for PCs, consoles, mobile devices, and even VR platforms. And while it costs nothing to download and use, Amazon says it will make its money back by selling various additional web services to developers. The engine is "deeply integrated" with both Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud computing platform, and Twitch, the video streaming site it bought for $970 million in 2014.

Lumberyard ties developers to Amazon products

The move is typical Amazon, bringing the company benefits at a number of different levels, and making third parties dependent on its services. Developers build a game for free using Lumberyard, and when they want to add support for multiplayer or other connected services, they buy the server time from Amazon. Then, if they want to make live streaming easier for their game, why wouldn't they go with Twitch — the market leader and a service that's built directly into the software they're using.

And while Amazon stresses that developers don't have to buy server time from them (it's not needed for single-player games, for example, or if companies have their own private servers), they're not allowed to use rival cloud services from companies like Google or Microsoft. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as Amazon's rates are reasonable and its servers are reliable, but it gives the company a lot of leverage. If Lumberyard can create hits — maybe the next League of Legends, for example, with its 67 million monthly players — then Amazon has a lot of control over that game's success.

From first impressions it seems that Amazon has built a very capable engine. Lumberyard can create games for Windows, Xbox One, and PS4, and the company says support for Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and the Oculus Rift are all "coming soon." Its visuals technology is based on CryEngine, a set of popular and powerful development tools that the company licensed from Crytek, and includes all the usual bells and whistles — from particle effects and and real-time water dynamics, to "vegetation tools" for super-realistic plants (presumably). For more details you can check out Lumberyard's launch site.

Amazon has been building up its gaming resources for a few years now, but it's not been a smooth journey to date. The company's internal gaming team, Amazon Game Studios, hasn't produced much of note, and last year it suffered a string of high-profile departures — including Clint Hocking, best know for his work on the Splinter Cell series and Far Cry 2. Now, instead of trying to compete directly with other developers, Amazon wants to provide the resources they need to create games in the first place. It takes the company out of the nitty gritty of making and marketing products, and lets it compete on its home territory — as a supplier.