It was recently reported that Amazon has spend $50-70 million to license CryEngine 3. There’s no word on just why Amazon was willing to part with such a large sum of money. While this deal will help save Crytek, what’s in it for Amazon? Looking at what they have now, neither the Fire TV Stick or Fire TV are powerful enough gaming devices to run even the original Crysis.
The only mobile device that might have the power is the rumored successor to the NVIDIA Shield, which may be powered by Tegra’s X1 chip. Amazon’s Fire TV box has been out for about a year now, so we’re due for a hardware revision, at least judging by what they’ve done for the Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon already has a fairly powerful piece of hardware when it comes to mobile processor consoles. While the three year old Adreno 320 isn’t cutting-edge, it does allow the Fire TV to pump out some relatively impressive graphics.
Amazon could go with an X1 chip and make that money back fairly easily – after all, their hardware is just meant as a gateway for paid services. The Fire TV was basically a trojan horse gaming device because it was marketed as a streaming box, and the same applies to the Fire TV Stick, which can play games like Castle of Illusion’s HD remake and Sonic the Hedgehog 4. There are few cheaper ways to enjoy games of this caliber.
Realistically, it seems more feasible for the next-generation version of the Fire TV to use the K1 – but if they’re willing to spend this much on Crytek, there’s a chance Amazon will future-proof their hardware with a high-end chip. We haven’t seen a K1-powered console yet, unless you count the NVIDIA Shield tablet. The K1 is capable of playing last-generation level stuff like Portal and a high-end version of Half-Life 2, so there’s a possibility of getting last-gen Cryengine games up and running on future micro-consoles.
Of course, yearly hardware upgrades offer greater potential profits, so Amazon going with K1 for the next-generation Fire TV device is more feasible. Beyond just wanting to make money back on this Crytek deal, they also want to hit the hundred dollar sweet spot for maximum accessibility. Mad Catz tried to overshoot that price point in late 2013 with their Tegra 4-powered Mojo, a $250 console that’s already been marked down to around $150.
The original Fire tablet launched at $200, but every successor has cost less, so it seems unlikely that a Fire TV will ever exceed that – especially when the original console was just $100. A $150 price point for a K1-powered box would be good value — especially if it features a wide variety of expandable storage options in the form of USB and SD/micro SD card support. Amazon acquired Double Helix, and Amazon Game Studios only has one game to show for it, so they may be planning to buy into existing franchises instead of building new ones fromt he ground up.
Hopefully we’ll find out more about this Amazon/Crytek deal soon — because there are many directions it could go. If they’re gearing up to launch new hardware, then history indicates we’ll know the day it hits their store. While the exact nature of Amazon’s gaming future isn’t known, it’s clear that they’re willing to spend a lot of money to gain a major foothold in the market. The Fire TV was a brilliant trojan horse for gaming, but it lacked the raw power to convert people who don’t view mobile as a viable gaming platform. With either a K1 or an X1 inside it, the next model could deliver AAA-quality graphics in an affordable and enticing package.