Fire controllerAmazon

Gamers have plenty to be fired up about with Fire TV's games lineup

Do you still believe in the dream of the cheap Android-based console? After the Ouya’s lackluster launch and the Nvidia Shield’s less-than-stellar adoption rates, do you have it in you to get excited one more time?

Amazon hopes so. Wednesday’s Amazon Fire TV announcement sees the retailer enter the Android console market with a set-top box-meets-gaming-device product. But a gaming console is only as good as its games, so what is Amazon offering?

Big names, big games

There’s a surprising amount of big-budget support for the Amazon Fire TV—something the Ouya never quite netted. Developers like Double Fine, TellTale, EA, Ubisoft, and 2K have all proffered support for the device, which already puts it in a better position than rival Android-based consoles.

As of now, you can go to Amazon’s Fire TV store section and buy TellTale’s critically-acclaimed Walking Dead, Ubisoft’s Rayman Fiesta Run, Sega’s Crazy Taxi and Sonic the Hedgehog, Double Fine’s The Cave, and the mobile version of Minecraft (Pocket Edition).

The Walking Dead game screenshot

The Walking Dead is one of the best games in years—a huge pull for Amazon’s platform.

Add in some independent games like Terraria and Electronic Super Joy, and some mobile favorites like Quell Memento and Canabalt HD—that’s a damn solid lineup for launch. And to sweeten the deal, Amazon says we’ll see thousands of games on Amazon Fire TV by next month. (There are currently 132.)

There’s also the promise of future exclusives. In the wake of the Fire TV announcement, Kotaku learned that both Far Cry 2 designer Clint Hocking and Portal designer Kim Swift have been hired on by Amazon Game Studios. Those are some seriously talented people attached to a studio, though as Kim Swift’s recent Ouya-exclusive game Soul Fjord can attest, names don’t always carry a platform.

But why?

Now sure, you could just buy all of the games I listed above on your Android phone, connect a controller (whether through third-party cables or through Bluetooth), and play that way. Or you could buy most of those games on your PC or existing console. Or you could just decide that playing phone games on your TV is not the best idea in the world.

But if you were going to go that route, well, you undoubtedly already have. The Amazon Fire TV is not meant for you. In fact, Amazon’s placement of games as a “bonus” to the set-top box capabilities is ingenious—it gets the box into houses, and then casually drapes the offer of games at unsuspecting consumers.

Amazon Fire TV home screen Amazon

Amazon’s “It does TV and games!” marketing strategy is the same as Microsoft’s for the Xbox One. Except one of those plans backfired horrendously.

Amazon has co-opted Microsoft’s marketing plan for the Xbox One, pitching this as a TV-and-games-all-in-one device, except there’s less chance of blowback for Amazon because the Fire TV was never going to be seen as a core gaming device to begin with. A small round of applause for Amazon, if you please.

Of course, we’ll have to see how Amazon’s approach to gaming works once we get our hands on the box for some testing. After all, in the case of the Ouya, the controller turned out to be the device’s Achilles’ heel, turning a middling console into an out-and-out disaster. We’ll have to test how games work both out of the box with the Fire TV’s remote and Amazon’s $40 add-on controller, plus any other Bluetooth controllers we have lying around.

Maybe the dream of the Android-based console is still alive, though. Amazon’s developer support is unprecedented in this space; the trick will be to see how that support translates to the shipping product.

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