If a Whole Foods empire, a handful of Emmy awards, and vast power in cloud computing weren’t enough for Amazon, it’s now carving out a thriving branch in the online gaming universe.
On Tuesday, Amazon Game Studios—the company offshoot dedicated to game development—released its new massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called New World, and gamers are already flocking to it in droves. On launch day, the concurrent player count peaked at over 700,000, making it one of the largest-ever debuts on Steam, a go-to host platform for video and computer gaming. Several days later now, New World has kept a steady swarm of players numbering in the hundreds of thousands, with some outlets reporting queues of up to 10,000 people just waiting to join.
Why is this game so popular?
Who knows! New World seems to be a traditional swashbuckling adventure game. It lets players explore and colonize the magical land of Aeternum, which is aesthetically reminiscent of mid-17th century America. Characters can unite with warring factions, forge weapons, or set out on quests to fight monsters. While the pretense is classic, the game’s success comes as a bit of a surprise for those who have been watching Amazon Game Studios’s previous ventures and remember the spectacular flop that was Crucible (Amazon’s first computer game, which debuted in May 2020 only to be yanked back to beta and then killed after just six months). Actually, the studio has a burgeoning game graveyard, which includes a brawler called Breakaway and a Lord of the Rings-themed fantasy project.
But if Crucible was an embarrassment, New World is a redemption—and potentially a goldmine. If the $40 game can achieve the cult status of global touchstones like Fortnite and World of Warcraft, Amazon could become one of the first tech companies—and the first Big Tech giant—to crack the $170 billion-plus video game market as an outsider. Google, meanwhile, seemed to give up on those aspirations earlier this year when it shuttered its own in-house game developer.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon’s many subsidiaries include Twitch, a massive live-streaming platform famed for its gamer presence. New World and Twitch’s successes could easily feed off each other if popular streamers broadcast their gameplay—on launch day, nearly a million viewers tuned in to New World channels—and, of course, all that hype could translate into cash in Amazon’s pockets.
But for the moment, Amazon is exercising its growing muscle of influence for a seemingly more important cause: Jeff Bezos’s image control. As PC Gamer reports, New World players are blocked from naming avatars with any variation of the Amazon founder’s name—like Bez0s or JeffB—or with the company name itself, presumably to prevent rogue villains from running amok in Aeternum and smearing the reputation of the world’s richest man.