In case you missed the announcement in all the political and virus-related news that’s been circulating for the past year, Amazon is now officially involved in video gaming. Having conquered almost every other facet of the technological world, it was inevitable that they’d get round to gaming eventually – and so they have. Their gaming product is called ‘Luna,’ which is currently in beta-testing and comes as an app. Similar to Google’s ‘Stadia’ product, Luna works by streaming video games across the internet from powerful hardware stored elsewhere. No hardware is required at the user’s end to make it work other than something that has a screen to play games on and an internet connection to access those games.
As is the case with any new gaming platform – especially one that has aspirations to one day challenge Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and all of the other well-established names on the market, Luna needs great games to lure players in. Today, it’s one step closer to putting itself in that position. Ubisoft’s ‘channel’ has now gone live on Luna – and players can access it for an initial price of fifteen dollars per month. If you’re the sort of person who keeps a close eye on the next big release from a video game development company, you probably have one big question about the channel and the price, so allow us to answer it for you. Yes, “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” is immediately available as part of that deal. If you want it, you can go and get it right now.
You might have heard the concept of video game streaming compared to a service like Netflix in the past, where users pay a monthly fee and can then access whatever they wish in return for that price. That’s certainly true of Google Stadia, which is the closest thing on the market to Luna at the time of writing. Luna, however, is different. Perhaps its business model could best be compared to an online slots website. In the overwhelming majority of cases, you don’t pay an entrance fee to gain access to an online slots website like Kong Casino. You’re free to browse whatever you wish free of charge, and the only time you’ll pay for anything is when you find an online slots game and decide to make a bet on it. Similarly, Amazon is happy for anyone to come and take a look at what Luna has to offer, but charges for access to each ‘channel’ that a customer subscribes to. Ubisoft, as a premium games developer, is likely to be one of the more expensive subscriptions at fifteen dollars per month.
Only you can decide whether fifteen dollars per month is a fair price to access and play games from just one company, but Ubisoft would want us to point out that “Ubisoft Plus” is about far more than just the latest games they have to offer. Almost everything in the company’s back catalog is available to play through the channel, and those games are opened up to cross-platform play. If you started playing a game on your console or PC, saved it, and then went to spend the weekend elsewhere, you could pick up from where you left off by loading your saved game through Luna and playing it on your phone or tablet in your hotel room.
There’s another possible perk that comes with playing games this way. As you might already have seen, there’s some controversy over the issue of which games will or won’t be compatible with the latest versions of the Xbox and PlayStation consoles. There are a few PS4 games that won’t work on the PS5 at all at launch and may never work on the new console at all. There’s also an issue with dual-platform games. In some cases – NBA 2K21, for example, the ‘next-gen’ version of the game is more expensive than the ‘current-gen’ version, and you can’t freely upgrade from one to the other if you upgrade your console. You have to buy a brand new copy of the game for your new machine if you want to take advantage of the next-gen enhancements. That isn’t the case with streaming services like Luna. As the games aren’t dependant on your hardware, you’ll automatically be shifted onto the latest version of the game at no additional cost.
As Luna is an Amazon product, it comes with a lot of additional Amazon software and connectivity. Luna comes with a version of Alexa pre-installed, which can be used to ‘speak to’ the platform without having to use a remote control. It also makes use of Amazon’s ownership of Twitch by allowing users to publish videos of their gameplay to Twitch with the press of a single button. It’s possible that there might be a future connection between Luna and Amazon Prime, whereby if you pay for one, you automatically gain access to the other. That’s yet to be decided, and in the meantime, Amazon is focused on getting as many big-name gaming partners as possible aboard the project so it can go toe to toe with Google. It has to establish brand superiority over Stadia before it can move on to taking on the Xbox or the PlayStation, so that’s likely to be what Amazon’s Luna team spends most of its time working on for the next twelve months.
As Luna is still in beta mode, you’ll have to directly request access to it from Amazon if you want to get involved with it. No solid date has yet been given for the ‘full’ launch of the platform – although, given the amount of hype and publicity that Amazon typically generates around its new products and services, we don’t imagine that you’ll miss it when it happens. Ubisoft’s channel going live is probably a sign that they’re ready to open up to the public in the near future. Right now, though, if you’re a fan of Ubisoft’s games and you don’t want to spend big money on acquiring a new-generation console, Amazon might just have hooked you up with a whole new way of playing.