While most of the discussion around Amazon’s presence in the game industry revolves around their scattershot game projects and rumored cloud gaming platform, the tech giant has been far more involved in building the backend infrastructure for major games.
Companies like Square Enix and Zynga both use Amazon Games Tech, Amazon’s portfolio of services that help studios launch dedicated servers, access Amazon-specific developer tools, and use a variety of other features to help developers launch and maintain their games. Last year, Epic Games announced that they were “all in” on AWS, Amazon Web Service, for their gigantic free-to-play shooter, “Fortnite.”
“People take for granted that ‘Fortnite’ works on a massive and global scale, it’s extraordinary,” Brian Taptich, who started as vice president of Amazon Games Tech eighteen months ago, tells Variety at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “It’s not like people are booting ‘Fortnite’ up and saying ‘I hope this works, I hope this goes live. That’s not an issue.'”
Epic Games uses AWS to scale to meet the demands that come from hosting 125 million players across several platforms. The flexibility of the cloud allows studios like Epic Games to scale up and down quickly, taking advantage of AWS’s like computing power, database storage, and content delivery.
Amazon has a big presence in the gaming industry. They own Twitch, the largest live streaming platform, they’ve developed Lumberyard, their own game engine, they have several projects currently in development through Amazon Games studios like New World, and they are rumors that the company is developing their own Netflix-like streaming platform for games (although Taptich wouldn’t talk about that during our meeting). During GDC, however, the focus was on how Amazon works with developers across the industry.
As more multiplayer-focused titles like “Fallout 76” and “Anthem” launch in a games-as-service style model the backend services that Amazon, and their competitors, provide will become increasingly important. A flawless launch for multiplayer titles is expected, even though recent titles haven’t met that expectation.
“That’s our job. We need to innovate in ways to make sure launches like that don’t happen,” Taptich added. “You don’t do the type events that Fortnite does, like the Marshmello concert where millions of people log on at once, happening without the flexibility that comes with cloud infrastructure.”
Taptich emphasized that while all developers want to create great games, the issues with launches and backend infrastructure only take time away from core development and hinder the quality of the final product. That’s why they should be handled by a dependable external service, developers should be focusing on the games themselves.
“The public cloud wasn’t invented to run games,” he said. “But game developers have embraced it for a ton of reasons, they need to scale their games up and down, they don’t want to spend all that time building out their backend infrastructure.”
Expectations in the industry are wildly changing as games like “Fortnite” and “Apex Legends” attract millions of players. The work to create the infrastructure needed to keep these games running has already become a tremendous challenge on its own.
“Amazon is known for being customer-obsessed, and Bezos said that customers are divinely discontent. Today’s wow turns into tomorrow’s ordinary,” Taptich said. “That quote is perfectly applicable to the games industry, things that worked last year or two years ago are just taken for granted. We’re always focused on the next big innovation.”