The online retailer’s console will run on the Android operating system and will retail for under $300. The hardware is being developed by Kindle designer Lab 126.
The device will stream movies, TV, music and play games, making it yet another choice in an ever-expanding list of living room devices aimed at capturing your couch time.
Both Google and Apple are also reportedly developing set-top boxes capable of streaming and games. Other living room contenders include micro-consoles like the Ouya, as well as the upcoming Linux-based Steam Machines from Valve and its partners.
Amazon appears to be recruiting developers with AAA game development experience, and if so this could certainly nudge the landscape in a new direction, with Amazon spearheading full-blown AAA games for its new machine.
But I remain somewhat skeptical that Amazon or Apple can trailblaze the same sort of success with set-top boxes that they’ve had in mobile and eBooks.
For one thing, the mobile phone gaming insurgency is largely the product of portable, touch-screen technology. There’s nothing that suggests the same type of games would be nearly as successful on television sets even with gamepad support.
The in-app purchase revenue model may be less compelling in the living room as well, at least compared to mobile devices where impulse gem buys can be made anywhere and at any time.
This isn’t to say Amazon or any of these other tech firms should shy away from the console market. There’s no reason not to expand their ecosystem to the living room.
Rather, I’m not sure that Amazon and Apple will actually compete directly with Xbox and PlayStation so much as with one another.
Meanwhile, we may be nearing a place in the video game industry where we have an unsustainable number of choices, with too many platforms competing while offering too few differentiating benefits.
Indeed, offering a set-top box feels a bit like taking a step backward for companies already invested in mobile, where the next big thing ought to be creating simpler, more efficient connectivity between TVs and mobile without the extra cost or fuss of extra hardware.