A handful of recent job listings may offer some hints as to Amazon's future ambitions in the gaming space. One opening mentions that the online giant "is looking for a software engineer to contribute to the design and construction of next generation of distribution technology for online video games."
The listing's copy also talks up the "[building] very cool software that affects a lot of people" vis-a-vis some sort of multiplatform client that interfaces with Amazon's web services. An evolution of Amazon's Game Connect offering, perhaps?
The team at Amazon working on that next-generation distribution technology is apparently separate from the "Amazon Advanced Game Technology team", which has "big plans to break several molds and launch entirely new technologies and businesses around digital games." Their endeavours will help "at propelling our customers' gaming experiences to the next digital era."
Amazon's Advanced Gaming Technology team previously created the Amazon Android Appstore's "Test Drive" feature that allows users to try out Android apps in their browser before buying — essentially a cloud-based trial. This sort of virtualization tech has very obvious applications with PC games and the like.
A senior manager on the Advanced Gaming Technologies team writes on his LinkedIn page that he is leading an effort to solve "some of the problems which have plagued gamers for years" — namely, "limited selection, high-prices, terrible lag, audio/video synchronisation, and expensive hardware." Coupled with a recent opening on the team talking about "solving some challenging virtualization problems," I do not think it is unreasonable to speculate that Amazon may be considering a cloud gaming solution in some capacity.
The Amazon Game Services team — which handles products like GameCircle and Game Connect — is looking to create additional "unannounced offerings to game developers" that will integrate with existing game engines such as Unity and Unreal.
On his CV, one Trion Worlds artist says he is working on "Unannounced Projects" in addition to Rift and the upcoming Defiance. Trion also recently posted job listings vis-a-vis an unnamed "colorful new action game.
Also of note: a brand director who left Trion Worlds last month claims on his CV that Trion and Syfy's upcoming transmedia release Defiance has a $US1 billion value, and that the budget was around $US100 million, with an additional $US25 million for marketing. The budget numbers are vaguely corroborated by a recent Forbes piece on the game, which said the game alone cost $US80 million, and the total cost of both the show and game was "well north of $US100 million."
According to the portfolio of a game designer at Spanish studio Tequila Works, the studio's followup to last year's 2.5D horror platformer Deadlight will be hitting both Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
Tequila Works' website states that the developer is working in tandem with a "major publisher" on the title, which a job opening describes as "a brand new experience in the new IP universe." Additionally, another job opening asked for candidates with an "Understanding of [Unreal Engine 4]," indicating that the title will be hitting next-generation platforms.
The studio also recently partnered with gaming talent agency DDM and investment firm Seahorn Capital Group to raise money for its projects that could potentially allow Tequila Works to bypass the financial precariousness of the traditional publisher-developer relationship.
It's unknown what this new project might be, but an early October tweet from the studio's Twitter feed mentioned that the prototype they were working on at the time was "eerie," so their next game will probably share the creepy atmosphere of Deadlight. The project's reveal may not be very far away: while discussing the benefits of GDC with Dust: An Elysian Tail co-writer Alex Kain, Tequila Works' CEO Raúl Rubio Munárriz said "we won't have the pressur [sic] of showing our games... Let's leave that for the E3." (It is, however, entirely possible that Munárriz was just discussing E3 in general.)
Big Red Button Entertainment is something of a rarity: a studio that has existed for five years and operated under the radar without having shipped a single game.
Founded in early 2008 by two Naughty Dog veterans — art director Bob Rafei and creative director E. Daniel Arey — Big Red Button had ambitions to become "the United Artists of games." The duo wanted to use Big Red Button as a vehicle to AAA games that were genuinely accessible and solve the one of the major issues of contemporary games: players not necessarily completing the games they buy.
Arey seems to have left the company several years back to join Blizzard, and he currently appears nowhere on the studio's list of employees. Curiously, a since-removed page of "Advisors & Consultants" listed him as a "Creative Consultant" alongside Doug Church, who apparently served as a "Creative Advisor" to Big Red Button prior to joining Valve.
Big Red Button spent the first few years of its existence creating a portfolio of original IP, and secured an alternative financing arrangement contingent on the signing of a publisher or similar partner. They briefly worked with the now-defunct Jerry Bruckheimer Games on an IP called "Ten Minute Man." (The relationship between the two companies actually led a Jerry Bruckheimer Games production assistant to jump ship to Big Red Button.)
As of mid-2010, Big Red Button was pitching IP "to publishers such as Sony, Konami and Activision". By spring of the following year, Big Red Button landed an "unannounced major project with third-party publisher", which seems to be the title they are presently working on.
Big Red Button's recruitment copy describes the project as a "next-gen landmark AAA console project," and job openings hint at a cross-generation "character driven, third-person action" title with co-op gameplay and some sort of mobile integration. The Big Red Button copy also mentions the company is keen on "delivering authentic gaming experiences that are as fun to watch as they are to play", so perhaps the game is not too far removed from a cinematic action-adventure title like Uncharted?
Finally, a producer at the studio says the project has a "$US19.9 million budget" with an estimated "34-month" production cycle and a present studio headcount of 28 people. Also, the domains itsasnowday.com and monstersurgeon.com — both registered in fall 2011 — redirect to Big Red Button's site, though neither of those quite sounds like a name of a AAA action title.
Top picture: Flickr
Superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific timezone. He tweets and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.
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