Amazon’s Luna game streaming service opens to all users, adds new channels
Amazon Games announced that its cloud-based game streaming platform Luna is officially out of beta, and is now available to any interested user in the mainland U.S.
Initially announced in September 2020, Luna is a subscription service that lets users sign up for one or several themed “channels,” where they can play a built-in lineup of video games via web browser, Fire TV or tablets, or a variety of supported mobile devices.
These games are streamed to the user’s device via Amazon Web Services, without any need for local installations or updates. You can go from the Luna menu to playing an available game in seconds.
Less usefully, Luna is priced more like cable television than other comparable services like the Xbox Game Pass. Your initial monthly fee for Luna ($9.99/month unless you were in the beta, which lets you keep the $6.99/month base fee if you resub by March 31) only covers its core “channel” of content, with additional channels available for additional money.
This includes an Ubisoft+ feed ($17.99/month) that contains an up-to-date library of that company’s games, such as Far Cry 6, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six: Siege; and the Family Channel ($2.99/month), a cheap extra that focuses on all-ages games including Skatebird and Wandersong.
The team behind Luna has quietly built in several additional features that make the service more interesting for game enthusiasts. In September, almost a year after the service’s beta launch, it announced a co-op feature for Luna that effectively added local multiplayer and a spectator mode to games on the service that don’t usually have either.
For Luna’s official launch, in a relatively predictable move, it’s added compatibility with Amazon’s Twitch platform so players can stream directly from Luna, using built-in software to provide a live camera feed. With a QR code, a streamer can theoretically get up and running in seconds using a Fire TV and Fire tablet as a makeshift webcam and mic, which could let newcomers quickly break into the Twitch streaming game.
Amazon has also added a Prime Gaming Channel for Luna, that offers a rotating selection of streaming games that Amazon Prime members can play for free. March’s initial offerings include Capcom’s hack-and-slasher Devil May Cry 5, Ubisoft’s Immortals: Fenyx Rising, the retro adventure Flashback (yes, the one from 1992), the indie psychological horror game Observer, and the British puzzler PHOGS!
This comes alongside a Luna Controller app for iOS and Android, which works with a Fire TV as a makeshift gamepad, and two new paid channels. Retro ($4.99/month) includes Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Metal Slug 3, and a compilation of the early games in the Castlevania series; and Jackbox Games ($4.99/month) collects all eight of Jackbox’s self-branded Party Packs.
The six initial channels for Amazon Luna at launch offer inconsistent pricing, but a fair bit of value to new or returning players. (Amazon Luna screenshot)
While the extra channels can add up in a hurry, the upside for Luna is that it still works out as being overall cheaper than individually buying many of the games on the service. The Ubisoft+ channel is weirdly expensive, but given the sheer size and/or replayability of many of Ubisoft’s games, it’s still a relative bargain.
Naturally, Luna also shares the same downsides as any other cloud-based service. It can use up a lot of bandwidth in a hurry, especially with high-definition games, and it’s very sensitive to lag, especially if you’re trying to play a game that requires you to stay connected to both Luna and its own server simultaneously.
The biggest Luna-specific downside here might be its software lineup. While there are still a lot of good games on Luna, they’re also relatively old. At launch, its marquee titles include Control (2019), Team Sonic Racing (2019), and Saints Row the Third: Remastered (the 2020 version of a 2011 release). It is attractively priced for newcomers or returning players, but gaming enthusiasts likely own or at least have played many of these games already.Continue Reading