Amazon Luna’s Time In The Moon Is Over

Amazon’s Luna is going down the same road as Stadia. Will it survive?

This month, Amazon’s cloud gaming service ‘Luna’ is set to lose 45 games in addition to the 50 games it lost last year. The list includes blockbusters like ‘The Medium’, ‘Yakuza: Like A Dragon’, and ‘Enter The Gungeon’. For those familiar with the fall of Stadia, this seems like the beginning of a failure story of yet another competitor who couldn’t solve cloud gaming’s numerous problems.

While companies like Amazon and Google stumble in the cloud gaming sector, players such as Microsoft, Sony, and NVIDIA have slowly been growing their market share. 

Are gaming companies better poised to solve the problems of cloud gaming than cloud service providers?

The Moon is Falling

One of the biggest problems faced by Stadia was the sheer cost associated with getting the games on its platform. Stadia was built on Linux to play along with Google’s cloud architecture, but this forced developers and publishers to treat it as a discrete platform. This, in turn, meant that they had to spend time and resources to ‘port’ the game to the platform instead of simply signing over distribution rights. 

Amazon seems to have learned from this mistake and come up with multiple strategies to not only ensure a steady supply of games but also a strong library of games for users. The servers for Luna are built on Windows and NVIDIA GPUs—environments that game studios have been developing over decades. This ensures that new games that release on other platforms can be brought over to Luna with minimal effort. 

For AAA games, Amazon entered into a partnership with Ubisoft and other developers like Jackbox Games. In addition to this, they also created ‘Luna+’, a channel focused on providing AAA titles such as Control, Metro Exodus, and Devil May Cry 5. ‘Luna+’ and Ubisoft perform most of the heavy lifting for the platform, as they offer the biggest crowd-pullers.

A lack of games on the platform is only the tip of the iceberg, as cloud gaming comes with its own set of problems to solve. One of the biggest problems companies sunk R&D resources into was solving for latency. Games are strongly affected by latency or ‘lag’, as the user generally experiences sluggish inputs or reduced response times. Both Stadia and Luna aimed to solve this by providing a controller that connects directly to the server, cutting down on input lag. Here, Amazon has another trick up its sleeve. 

For instance, in the United States alone, AWS Cloud has 25 availability zones and 44 Edge network locations. Luna is only available in this region and builds on top of AWS’ existing server infrastructure. The architecture for Luna functions off AWS EC2 instances, specifically those running Intel Cascade Lake CPUs and NVIDIA T4 GPUs. With standard hardware and geographically available server farms, Luna is able to provide an almost smooth experience for users. 

GCP, on the other hand, has 28 availability zones in the same region; although some of the computing resources in these centres are reserved for Google’s services. Stadia not only left these to the wayside, but also developed a whole new OS for running games. This added both cost and complexity to games deployed on Stadia, resulting in a host of latency issues on the user’s end. Multiple tests showed that competitors routinely outperformed Stadia in terms of latency, even after Google’s promises of ‘better performance’.

Another issue that users faced with Stadia was the push to repurchase games that they already owned on other platforms. Luna solved this problem by adopting a ‘channel’ approach to monetisation, where users can pay a monthly fee to access a set of games without additional purchase. 

For those watching the cloud gaming space closely, these moves might seem like they are aping some of the leaders in the space. Stadia’s launch had spawned a roster of rivals but it seems that Luna’s competitors have pretty much left it in the dust. 

Stiff Competition?

Even as Luna tries to fill the gap left by the death of Stadia, it seems that others are already rushing to get a slice of the pie. While Sony and NVIDIA have been trying to enter the market since 2014, Microsoft entered it in 2019, offering cloud gaming along with their monthly subscription service called ‘Xbox Games Pass’. 

It is plausible that the reluctance to re-buy games is one of the biggest hurdles for cloud gaming to reach widespread adoption. By bundling a cloud gaming service with a game subscription service, Microsoft’s offering has rocketed to the top of the market share despite being the last mainstream gaming company to enter the market. As per a report by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming boasts about 60–70% market share, with GeForce Now and PS Now both claiming about 10–20% market share. Luna and Stadia both languish at the bottom of the table, claiming only 0–5% market share. 

As things stand currently, the only possible competitor to Xbox is Luna. The companies behind both these offerings have enormous amounts of infrastructure to back it up—Azure for Microsoft and AWS for Amazon—leaving the battlefield open for actual value provided by the service. For the time being, Xbox cloud gaming is included within the Xbox Games Pass, providing access to a large library of games out of which a handful can be played on the cloud. Luna, on the other hand, is haemorrhaging games at an extremely fast rate. 

According to reports, Luna has been removing games from its platform since late last year. In December, we saw around 45 out of the 260-odd games on the platform being removed, a trend followed up by a further 50 games being removed this month. Xbox Game Pass, on the other hand, is not only ahead of Luna in terms of library size—350+ playable on cloud—but also in the attrition rate of games. 

On average, around three games leave the platform every month, but more than five get added. Combining this with Microsoft’s bevy of first-party studios such as Xbox Games Studios and Bethesda, it seems unlikely that Games Pass will lose more games. Microsoft has also committed to burning cash on Games Pass, being ready to pay the exorbitant licensing fee that most game studios charge for such contracts. Conversely, Luna seems to be losing steam as Amazon slowly cuts down on the costs associated with the platform. 

Even though Amazon’s Luna has a long way to go in order to overtake Microsoft, Sony and NVIDIA, it is uniquely positioned to take over the market from the Redmond giant. However, this will not only involve money burn in terms of licensing and user acquisition costs but also fighting tooth and nail against one of biggest gaming companies, Microsoft, for control over a nascent market. 

Download our Mobile App

Anirudh VK
I am an AI enthusiast and love keeping up with the latest events in the space. I love video games and pizza.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our editors every weekday evening as they steer you through the most significant news of the day.
Your newsletter subscriptions are subject to AIM Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

Our Recent Stories

Our Upcoming Events

3 Ways to Join our Community

Telegram group

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Discord Server

Stay Connected with a larger ecosystem of data science and ML Professionals

Subscribe to our Daily newsletter

Get our daily awesome stories & videos in your inbox

6 IDEs Built for Rust

Rust IDEs aid efficient code development by offering features like code completion, syntax highlighting, linting, debugging tools, and code refactoring