Amazon Launches Luna Game Service With Alexa-Enabled Controller
Amazon has officially launched its new Luna gaming service, including native Twitch streaming integration and new Alexa commands to launch games by voice. The company also released a branded game controller directly connected to the cloud and built with a microphone button to awaken the voice assistant during gameplay.
The cloud-connected Luna Controller skips the need for pairing with specific devices. It can connect to Luna’s gaming channels on computers, Android and iOS devices, Chromebooks and Amazon Fire TVs and tablets. The controller includes Bluetooth and USB connections to allow for playing other computer games with it as well. The microphone button only becomes relevant with Fire devices. Once connected to them, the microphone button will activate Alexa on those devices and allow the player to launch specific games by requests such as, “Alexa, play ‘Sonic Mania Plus.’” The controller costs $70 though there is a sale for $20 off for the next couple of weeks. Luna has an iOS and Android app to turn a smartphone into a game controller for those without the controller, including a virtual version of the microphone button.
We’re thrilled to bring Amazon Luna to everyone in the mainland US, making it easy to instantly start gaming on the devices you already own,” Amazon said in announcing the service. “Playing games on Luna works best with the Luna Controller, which features Cloud Direct Technology and a multiple-antenna design that prioritizes uninterrupted wifi for lower latency gaming. Also, the Luna Controller connects directly to cloud servers which enables players to easily switch between screens — such as Fire TV to a mobile phone — without additional pairing or configuration changes.”
Amazon has a noticeably aggressive approach to its new gaming system, with five channels available, each with a rotating game collection and price point. There’s a sale until the end of March that prices the Luna+ channel at $6 a month before it rises to $10 a month, while the family channel will go from $3 to $6. The remaining channels, Retro, Jackbox Games, and Ubisoft+, don’t have an introductory price. Retro and Jackbox are the cheapest at $5 a month each, and Ubisoft+ is the most expensive at $18 a month.
Voice for Gaming
The Luna model draws immediate comparison to Google Stadia, whose own controller includes a Google Assistant button with similar limited voice controls. Despite claims that the voice assistant would integrate into games and help players, it mainly launches games by voice command and answers questions when used on Chromecast Ultra smart TVs. Luna may end up stuck in a similar rut, but there’s new competition that could spur more voice usage on the gaming services. Sony recently debuted the “Hey, PlayStation” voice assistant in a beta test package. The voice assistant responds to requests to find and open games and apps, adjust settings, and manage audio and video playback. The vocal control is already an option on the PS4, but the beta undergoing testing offers several technical upgrades, according to Sony.