Early Friday morning, images leaked from ANATAL that showed off quite a bit more than one might expect from the Brazilian equivalent of the FCC. An Amazon Android-based console has been rumored for a while, and with this piece of physical evidence, it seems like an official announcement will be forthcoming shortly. While the controller itself has spawned a lot of hatred, it’s a bit confusing to see why. Sure, it’s not the prettiest-looking thing ever, but from a functional standpoint, it should be just fine. It’s got 360-style thumbsticks with little nubs and a convex shape as well as a Wii U-style button design with a more traditional left-to-right lettering scheme. The OnLive pad’s play/pause, rewind, and fast forward buttons have been retained. While that could imply some kind of game replay feature, more than likely, it just means the system will have an Amazon Instant Video app since this lacks that pad’s record button.
The Wii U-style buttons should be comfortable to press, and the OnLive-style buttons should be easy to reach. The center buttons look nearly identical to the Xbox One’s, so they’ll be okay, but the bigger silver button seems a bit iffy. It doesn’t jut out quite as much as the 360 pad’s guide button, but since it does appear much taller than the other buttons in the middle of the pad, it may still be prone to accidental presses. The bumpers look nearly identical to the OnLive pad, although much of that whole area appears to be part of the shell and not actually the button, and judging by how much room there is between the top of the bumpers and the controller shell, they may suffer from the problem where clicking them in just doesn’t feel satisfying.
Finally, the d-pad looks very OUYA-esque, which doesn’t bode well for it. While that pad can be broken in to be a bit more comfortable, it takes time and it never feels as natural as a Sony or Nintendo console one (Gamecube pad notwithstanding). There does appear to be a groove in the center which should make it more comfortable than the OUYA pad at least, and the rounded tips mean it won’t have those jagged edges on the corners. Given the four little light areas on the front, it seems like the system will support four pads, although it isn’t known if the Amazon Android console will accept any controller like the OUYA, or it will just use this pad exclusively. Given that Amazon will likely have a system-specific app store and aims for the casual consumer, it seems likely that it will be proprietary and not allow the use of other pads.
With Amazon’s recent announcement of a $25 price increase for Amazon Prime membership, it will be interesting to see if they decide to offer this system up at a discounted rate, or just make it free for people who re-subscribe to the service. Sure, they’d lose a ton on hardware, but they also want Prime to remain popular and want to get this system in the hands of people. If they try to go for a $100 launch price, which seems realistic after the Mad Catz MOJO failed to gain any traction whatsoever at $250 while the OUYA at least gathered a cult following at $100, then they’d really only be out $75, and could save more by just sending it to people who have Prime and have gaming-heavy purchase histories, or perhaps they could do a survey and let people opt-in or out of receiving the system. They could just treat it like Gamestop does Game Informer, where you get an additional value for your money, and whether you really want it or not, you’ll keep the membership active just to get more free stuff.
The controller for Amazon’s console is shaping up fine so far. While it’s definitely got some minor issues in theory, holding it in the hands and seeing how it works in execution is going to be the key to telling how good it winds up working out. Hopefully, they’re as receptive as OUYA was to criticism and actually make some changes to it after release to address concerns and ensure it’s the best it can be. If the Kinde Fire setup is any indication, they’ll probably make those changes to version 2.0 of the hardware, or go with a Microsoft-style model of making extreme changes like in the game like they did with the 360 pad, even if remedying issues swiftly like they did with the original Xbox’s pad would be the better long-term move. I was hopeful that the Android console marketplace would lead to a revolution in gaming, and if Amazon enters that space, there’s a solid chance that could happen. OUYA Discover storefront support would be an interesting thing as well, but that’s a topic for another day since Amazon doesn’t even have the console officially announced, even if there is now a direct smoke signal that couldn’t make it more obvious.