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Rumors of Amazon’s Gaming Console Continue to Leak, Torturing Bloggers Everywhere

Rumors amazon_instant_video_google_tv_1-580x326have been circling since September 2012 that Amazon is working on a set-top box slash gaming console, and while there’s still no solid evidence that it exists that hasn’t stopped the rumors. VG24/7 is fanning the flames today with new "details" about the latest rumor.

According to their unnamed sources, the gaming console will run Android (this we could have guessed), and compete with both streaming set top boxes like Roku and game consoles like the Xbox:

Senior publishing sources have been meeting with Amazon for a briefing on the hardware – which currently goes by a number of different codenames – and popular Android and iOS games have been used to demo the device.

The unit being shown to publishers at this point is said to be roughly the same size as the PSone redesign, grey in colour, oblong in shape and with sharp edges. However, the pre-production unit is likely to have a full makeover before any official release.

The hardware is being created in conjunction with subsidiary Lab 126, designers of Amazon’s Kindle devices.

They also added that the device is expected before the end of the year with a retail of $300.

Did you catch that bit about the iOS games? If that is accurate (and the device exists, and it hits the market) we could be looking at a very different device than simply a gaming console.

iOS games can only be played on the iPad and iPhone, so if they made an appearance on the Firetube (a trademark filing suggest that this could be the name) then that might be a sign that the Firetube might be able to pair with the iPad and mirror its display on a large screen TV. You could play the game on the iPad while looking at the TV, much like the Nintendo WiiU pairs a tablet-like controller with its console.

The above speculation might strike you as implausible given that Amazon doesn’t sell iOS games and thus would have no interest in the iPad, but Amazon has just started letting developers charge for HTML5-based apps. If Amazon wanted to profit from selling apps for the iPad they would have to be based on HTML5. And given the sheer number of iPads (nearly 200 million as of last quarter) I would bet that Amazon is looking at the iPad covetously.

But at this point that is all speculation, and I wouldn’t put too much weight into it. There’s been no real evidence to prove that the FireTube exists outside of a lab, and until a benchmark leaks online or until a reliable site like Boy Genius Report posts photos or specs, I don’t intend to take it all that seriously.

And while I do tend to believe that Amazon has some type of set top box under development, I also know that simply because it is under development doesn’t guarantee that Amazon will ever release it. They might decide that it simply isn’t practical or profitable, or it could die as a result of internal politics. Who knows.

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Smoley January 28, 2014 um 2:43 pm

I would expect an Amazon PrimeCast HDMI dongle long before a game console. Heck, I’d buy one and it would give me another reason to continue to renew my Prime subscription.

Nate Hoffelder January 28, 2014 um 5:25 pm

One that partners with a Kindle Fire, or one that simply ties itself to the Wifi network andcan stream on its own? Either one would be a good idea, yes.

Chris Meadows January 28, 2014 um 2:52 pm

And here I thought you had pledged not to report on tech rumors anymore. 🙂

Nate Hoffelder January 28, 2014 um 3:09 pm

I never intended to avoid rumors entirely, just avoid the least credible ones. This one is reasonably credible and the detail about the iOS games was intriguing.

fjtorres January 28, 2014 um 3:07 pm

On the one hand, there is room for a new gaming console in the market now that the lemony Wii U has officially thudded.

On the other hand, the market for the low-end console in the rumors is currently occupied, and similar rumors have both a gaming focused Apple TV and a diskless XBOX 360 incoming. The rumored XBOX360, in particular, would hit the ground running and likely would suck a lot of the air out of the room.
If Amazon really wanted to do this they needed to do it last fall.

Nate Hoffelder January 28, 2014 um 5:23 pm

"If Amazon really wanted to do this they needed to do it last fall."

I’m not so sure. What if Amazon came in with a $199 console whose primary purpose was a set-top box? I don’t think any of the majors could compete with a true low end device.

Chris Meadows January 28, 2014 um 5:56 pm

And Amazon has lots of things it could do to push the console. What if it gave a big discount on it for Prime subscribers, or bundled a couple of free years of Prime with it?

fjtorres January 28, 2014 um 7:07 pm

At $199 it would be DOA.
Even at $99 released this spring it would be iffy; witness the pathetic sales of AppleTV.

Remember, the disk-based XBOX360 has already hit $149 repeatedly and in addition to casual games by the truckload has both disk-based and digital download AAA games. Sony is at $199 and has BluRay. Both have full video streaming capabilities including Amazon itself.
The rumored XBOX mini would cost reduce the existing 360 by going all solid-state which means it can hit $99-129.

Basically, if Amazon is going to play in the living room with the big boys and their 40m user installed base with Android games, they need to come in at $50.

Last year they had a chance at $99 because neither MS nor Sony was going to drop prices and detract from the new consoles. This year, they are guaranteed to go lower, which means existing disk-based consoles will go to $149-179 by summer. For that matter, if Nintendo doesn’t pull the plug on Wii U, they’ll be at $199 by E3 if not sooner.

Amazon is really going to have to go waaaayyy out of the box to move significant numbers of android gaming consoles at anything much above $49.

Nate Hoffelder January 28, 2014 um 7:34 pm

I hadn’t considered how the older models affected the market, and you’re right. You can already get an Xbox 360 refurb for $150, and that already does a lot of the streaming media that Amazon could profit from.

I think you just explained the best reason why Amazon might not be releasing a console.

fjtorres January 29, 2014 um 8:29 am

Right now there is a lot of talk about Apple TV bringing iOS games to the living room. And Steam bringing PC games.
I can see both having "some" success but the problem most "analysts" forget is that both XBL and PSN are social networks. People are invested in those networks because their friends and relatives are invested in them. And there are a lot of households committed to them. Microsoft has around $50M *paying* XBL members of which maybe 30m are in the US. Sony’s paying members are lower but their fanbase is similarly committed so about half of US households are already spoken for just between those two players. And a good portion of the rest aren’t really interested in gaming in the living room.
As to media streaming, there is still some room, but smartTVs have been getting smarter, Roku is rolling merrily along, and neither Google nor Apple have had great success. (Just check the streaming capabilities of an E-series Vizio TV. And that’s the low end.)

It’s a brutal fight today.
There’s room for more players but I’m not sure there is money to be made there.

Nate Hoffelder January 29, 2014 um 8:41 am

And it’s not just the existing committed users; there’s tight competition to recruit new users, and both Sony and MS have an advantage of a well established stable of games. That counts for a lot, both in terms of purchasing and reselling.

Amazon probably will be at a disadvantage when they launch, though Valve might have better luck.

fjtorres January 29, 2014 um 10:20 am

Valve has a lot of PC Gamer loyalty and they could potentially eat a decent chunk of the avid gamer market. Which, oddly enough, could benefit Microsoft. (Since the XBox One is casting a wider net than PS4 in family entertainment.)

The wildcard technology is video game streaming; Both MS and Sony have demonstrated the ability to stream AAA HD games off servers to current and last-gen hardware. Sony is promising to deploy it this year, while MS has publicly stated that with the current nature of broadband networks they can’t guarantee a good experience so they’re going to hold off.

If Amazon can match those capabilities and set up a PC game streaming service they might have a business model for a $50 FIREtube. But that’s a stretch with the quality of broadband out there. There’s only so many places with fiber to the house broadband.

Maybe if net neutrality really dies…

But even then, both PS3 and the 360 are perfectly capable of serving as clients for a game streaming service so it may be that the two stay in production indefinitely as sub-$100 streaming/gaming boxes.

Like I said, it’s a tough market getting tougher.
Amazon won’t be competing with startups or fish-out-of-water retailers but savvy entrenched tech companies. It’ll be a good test of how much risk Bezos is willing to take.

Nate Hoffelder January 29, 2014 um 6:05 pm

Dell just announced a $129 dongle which is a perfect example of what Amazon should have released last year:

fjtorres January 29, 2014 um 8:04 pm

Yup. That would’ve worked.
Dell’s doing interesting stuff for the first time in ages. Like their Alienware steam box.

Nate Hoffelder January 29, 2014 um 8:06 pm

And their tablets are rather appealing.

New Rumor: Amazon's Set Top Box Will Be A Dongle – The Digital Reader October 27, 2014 um 9:41 am

[…] could well have a similar goal in mind for their dongle (it would explain the rumor about support for iOS games) – assuming this rumor is […]

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