Hey, I'm Dan! I invest in startups at Madrona and write the DL, a weekly newsletter about tech in the Pacific Northwest

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Is Amazon Bad at Creativity?

Imagine spending ~$100M over five years to build and launch a “triple-A” video game. You give it away for free, but one month after launch you have <300 players. That’s what happened earlier this year with Crucible, Amazon’s first game. 😬


Last week, Protocol wrote a great article on what went wrong and why Amazon is so good at so many things, but so bad at games (at least so far). Here are the key takeaways:

  • Games are art, not software - Successful game studios try to protect the creatives from the nasty “finance guys.” Amazon’s culture of A/B testing, user surveys, and iterative critiques works well for product, but it’s “horrible for creative endeavors”
  • Games are treated differently than video - Amazon’s video division is run by entertainment industry veterans, and they report directly to Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s game business reports to Andy Jassy, the CEO of AWS, and AWS doesn’t have much experience selling games
  • Games are seen as a tool to sell cloud - Amazon wants to build computationally intensive games that show off the power of the cloud to their enterprise customers, and that creates the wrong incentives for building fun games


The article started out with the quote:

“We’re bringing a lot of Amazon practices to making games”

and it was an interesting take on the challenges of applying “Amazon practices” to creative work. Strengths come with weaknesses, and just because Amazon is entering a market doesn’t mean they will succeed. Well, at least they don’t have to pay 30% of any revenue to the App Store! (See: Fortnite news ICYMI last week)


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