Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service gets limited Android rollout

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Amazon's Luna cloud gaming
Source: theverge.com

Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service is now available on Android, Amazon announced on Tuesday. Like the iOS version of Luna, there’s no separate Luna app to download.  Instead, you will access the service through the Chrome web browser. In early October this year, the Amazon Luna was out. And it was available on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and on iPhone and iPad via web apps. The service works on a channels-based model, where you pay a monthly fee for each channel of games you want access to.

Right now, there are two channels available. Amazon’s $5.99-per-month Luna Plus channel has games from many different publishers. And Ubisoft’s $14.99-per-month Ubisoft Plus channel offers Ubisoft games. Luna is only available in the US right now. Right now, Luna’s Android version works on some Pixel, Samsung, and OnePlus devices. But Amazon says Luna will add support for more Android devices during Luna’s early access period.

Devices that support Luna are:

  • Pixel Devices (4XL, 4a, 4a 5G, 5)
  • Samsung Devices (S10, S10+, Note 10, Note 10+, S20 5G, S20+ 5G, S20 Ultra 5G, Note 20)
  • OnePlus Devices (7, 7 Pro, 7 Pro 5G, 8, 8 Pro, Nord, 7T, 7T Pro, 7T Pro 5G)

Users must be running Android 9 or higher and have a minimum internet speed of 10Mbps. Further, they will need to have Chrome version 86 or newer installed on their device. Like the iOS version of the service, Luna on Android is a progressive web application (PWA). Or it is a browser-based program and not a native Android app.

Some interesting facts about Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming:

Game selection:

Firstly, Amazon Luna is a cloud gaming service, which streams games from an Amazon server farm directly to your receiver of choice. It can include a PC app, a Mac app, a Chrome browser, an Amazon Fire TV device, or an iPhone/iPad through the Safari browser. The service costs $7 per month in early access and gives you access to a curated game library. It’s currently an invite-only program, but you can add your name to a waitlist on Amazon’s site.

The game library is both a strength and a weakness for Luna. On the one hand, the curation is robust, and the titles on offer are generally good, from Abzu to the Castlevania Collection. The only issue is that there’s no real “system-seller’ here. The games are usually indie and mid-budget fare, which don’t require potent hardware to run in the first place. Control is perhaps the “biggest” title on offer, and that’s not really enough to hang a whole cloud gaming platform on.

Potentially more interesting is its compatibility with Ubisoft+: another early access streaming service, which does pretty much what the name suggests. This service lets you stream Ubisoft titles to PCs and other devices, including major releases including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Far Cry 5. In theory, this can be quite useful, especially since recent Ubisoft games can transfer save files across platforms.

On the other hand, the Ubisoft+ subscription costs another $15 on top of Luna’s $7. A year’s worth of both would cost $264, at which point you might want to consider just buying a cheap console instead.

Performance of Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming:

Amazon Luna is perfectly playable, but it still has some performance kinks to work out. At present, Luna supports only 1080p and 30 frames per second, which, in and of itself, is something of an issue. Google Stadia supports 4K/60 fps, as does Nvidia GeForce Now. While a UHD streaming option for Luna is on the way, it’s already a little behind its closest competitors.

However, the more significant issue was that even in 1080p settings, the frame rate was not consistent. While a dropped frame now and then doesn’t render a game absolutely unplayable. It’s still odd to see this issue in a service for which Amazon is already laying out an asking price. At the risk of sounding haughty, if cloud gaming is supposed to be a proper replacement for expensive consoles and PCs. Its performance has to be perfect; “nearly perfect, most of the time” is not enough.

Controller:

Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming controller is similar to the Google Stadia controller in many ways. It has a similar layout, a similar size, and weight, a similar flaw. There’s almost no reason to use it instead of a standard Xbox controller. The Luna controller looks like most other controllers made in the last seven years. It features large handsets, two offset analog sticks, a D-pad, a handful of face buttons. The only significant difference here is that the Luna controller is optimized for the Fire TV platform. And it includes an Alexa-enabled microphone, as well as dedicated home and options buttons.

The controller does everything it’s supposed to, but it feels a little flimsy, and the buttons don’t have much heft to them. Suppose you’re starting from absolute scratch and know that Luna will be your platform of choice for years to come. It may be worth buying.

The outlook:

If you already have a gaming console or PC, it’s not really necessary. And if you don’t have a gaming console or PC, are you really dying to play console-style games? If so, Luna is worth considering, but it still has the Stadia problem of courting a potentially very niche audience.

Key takeaway:

Amazon plans to integrate Luna with Twitch’s streaming platform in the near future. That move, which mirrors Google’s recent integration of Stadia into YouTube Gaming, could reinforce Twitch’s lead in the game streaming market. Luna will also be integrated with Alexa, which will accept voice commands through the optional Luna controller. That integration should tether the service to Amazon’s Echo devices and other Alexa-enabled devices. Hence we can say it is a fantastic gaming service.