In gaming, like in any form of entertainment, success takes more than a big name and a big pile of cash.
Amazon's in-house game studio has failed to release anything in eight years, whilst Google is reportedly shutting down Stadia Games. How is it possible that the two corporations that supposedly know everything about us, can't make a game people actually want to play? What does it say about technology and creativity in gaming?
The good: tech providing the infrastructure for modern gaming
If you look back at the major shifts that shaped the games we love today, you will always find a tech giant providing the infrastructure somewhere in the background.
A decade ago, Apple, Google and Facebook helped to make the free-to-play model a commercial success, lowering the barriers to entry, inviting everyone (especially the Kardashians), and changing game design forever.
More recently, Google and Amazon helped move games to the cloud. Epic Games works closely with AWS to deliver Fortnite, the phenomenon that tipped gaming over the edge into mainstream culture. Games are increasingly designed to be enriched over time, from a typical solo adventure like Assassin's Creed to sports titles like NBA 2K. it's also a tipping point for marketers, with more opportunities to show up in these ongoing virtual worlds.
So for the likes of Amazon and Google, it's tempting to create their own games and drive cloud service revenue. But it's when tech decides to be the centre of attention, that things can go rather badly.
The bad: tech moving into the game content creation
Former employees at Amazon and Google's game studios report the same core issue: cultural misfit. The company cultures of tech giants did not provide the right environment for game devs to thrive, the graft did not take.
While the world may be waking up to the fact that most gamers are not angry teenage nerds, one misconception seems persistent: the underappreciation of games as an art form, or at least a creative industry like any other. When tech giants decided to move into the film industry, they did not start up an entire in-house production studio to create the next Avengers blockbuster from scratch. Instead, they provided financial support and tech assistance, and let people focus on what they do best, in the right environment.