Co-Op Critics Podcast: Amazon Prime and Fallout 4

In the latest episode of the Co-Op Critics podcast, Brian and Nick discuss Amazon’s new game discount program and our game of the month, Fallout 4.

You can listen to the episode right here in the player above, or check us out on iTunes and Spreaker. You can also listen to back episodes on our podcast page.

NOTE: The game of the month for February on Co-Op Critics will be ARK: Survival Evolved. We’ll be featuring videos all month and a podcast at the end of February to discuss our thoughts on the game.


Amazon Deals Another Blow to GameStop (and Best Buy)

Back in March of 2015, I wrote about switching from GameStop to Best Buy for new game purchases, because of Best Buy’s newly-discounted Gamer Rewards program. The big hook for Best Buy was offering a 20% discount on new games, something that GameStop does not do.

A little over a week ago, Amazon gut punched GameStop again (and kicked Best Buy’s legs out from under it) when they announced that Prime Subscribers will now get 20% off of pre-orders and newly-released games to go along with their already free two-day shipping. The term “newly-released” in this case means up to two weeks after the initial release date.

So, how does this stack up to GameStop and Best Buy? Well, as I wrote about before, GameStop still gives you a print magazine subscription for your $15 a year, and Best Buy offers reward certificates that can be used for anything they sell. Both also give you extra value for used game trade-ins.

Looking at Amazon’s trade-in program, it looks like they actually give you slightly more value than GameStop, although GameStop gives more if you are using the credit to buy more games. For example, Amazon will give you $20.54 for Star Wars Battlefront, while GameStop would give you $19.66 cash, or $24.20 if you used it toward another game. Add to that the discount you get on used games, and GameStop can provide more value for those trading in games to buy more games.

But really, the main questions you should be asking yourself are if you buy new games and you are already a Prime Subscriber. Because if the answer to those two questions is yes, this is a no-brainier.

I am a Prime subscriber and for me, this move by Amazon actually hurts Best Buy more. I already had stopped buying new games at GameStop. Now I can get the 20% discount and free two-day shipping on my new games. So, Amazon will become the place for me to buy new, and GameStop will continue to be my used game option.

At some point, I think GameStop is going to have to bite the bullet and offer discounts on new releases. They’ve tried to diversify, getting into retro games and pushing more geek culture merchandise, but I don’t think that will be the solution in the long term.


Twitch Is a Better Fit for Amazon Than People Might Think

In a very interesting turn of events last week, Amazon bought video streaming service Twitch for just under a billion dollars. This came as quite a surprise, because for the past several weeks, the prevailing rumor was that Google was buying Twitch for about the same price.

Google buying Twitch made a lot of sense, both from a technology standpoint and a business standpoint. By owning Twitch, they no longer would have to compete with Twitch, and they would have a livestreaming platform to compliment their recorded video platform. Because despite the improvements in Google Hangouts and YouTube livestreaming, Twitch was still way ahead of Google in the livestreaming space.

But with Amazon swooping in and getting Twitch in the eleventh hour, Google went from potentially owning the online video space to facing even stronger competition from one of its biggest rivals, in an area they previously didn’t have to worry about.

That’s a whole other subject, however. Let’s just focus for a moment on what the addition of Twitch could mean for Amazon, and for gamers.

Amazon already has a video on demand service with Amazon Instant Video. Now they have a livestreaming service with over 50 million users, who spend up to two hours a day consuming content. That’s a lot of eyes for Amazon to show ads to, and an added value for their Prime subscription service if they want to offer an an ad-free option.

On the gaming front, anyone who was skeptical when Amazon talked about getting into the gaming space should be a believer by now. They launched a games studio in 2012, created a game controller for their their Kindle Fire TV, and have added asymmetrical co-op features to some of their games, allowing someone with a Kindle Fire HDX tablet to play along with someone using a game controller on the Fire TV. Now they have added the biggest gameplay streaming platform in the world to their ecosystem. And while none of these pieces may fit together perfectly yet, the point is that Amazon now has all of these pieces. They can build games and services moving forward that leverage their devices and their video platforms.

Not to mention, now Twitch has additional resources to continue improving and expanding its core services, and I wouldn’t expect Amazon to screw with what’s working already. They may offer enhanced services to those already participating in the Amazon ecosystem (Prime subscribers and Kindle device owners), but I think those that just want to stream content from their consoles or PCS, or watch streamed content will be able to do so whether they are using Amazon services or not.

Of course, Twitch can stream more than just gameplay, so Amazon now also has another platform to create and distribute original programming to an audience of millions. I could easily imagine the Amazon Weekly Book Club video podcast, or the Amazon Instant Video Picks of the Week show. They could even create programs similar to X-Play and Electric Playground, which would be a perfect fit for the Twitch audience.

So, I’m pretty excited to see what Amazon does moving forward. They said they were jumping into the video game space, and they’ve done just that, in more ways than one.


The Possibilities of Amazon Fire TV

So, Amazon Fire TV was announced last week, and while it wasn’t the true entry into the gaming console market I hoped it would be, I am still excited about the possibilities that it brings.

For starters, the fact there is a dedicated controller available from day one is a big plus, and a great sign for any potentially interested developers. It opens the door for a variety of older games that require a controller to be made available, as well as providing a roadmap for future games. You can also use any bluetooth controller with the Fire TV, which is huge.

Secondly, the tablet integration with Kindle Fire HDX is interesting, and already being shown of with Sev Zero, the game that comes with the controller. Lots of possibilities there in the future.

What I would love to see though, is Amazon really leverage their partnerships with publishers to get their big chunks of their back libraries on the Fire TV. They mentioned Disney, Gameloft, EA, Sega, Ubisoft and Double Fine already, so there is a lot of potential there.

And that’s really what the Amazon Fire TV is all about right now–potential. With Amazon’s ecosystem, and a growing in-house development studio, Amazon could carve out a nice niche in the micro console market.

This is also a great shot across the bow to Apple, whose fans have been begging them to get into the micro console space for some time.


How Amazon Could Re-Create the Wii’s Success

So, rumors were flying around the internet this week that Amazon is currently developing an Android-based gaming console, which will be released before Black Friday this holiday shopping season.

Now, most avid gamers will scoff at this potential news, for a few reasons. First, the recently-released Ouya Android gaming console has received mixed reviews at best, and while we haven’t seen actual sales numbers, the console does not appear to be selling briskly.

Second, we have the Xbox One and Playstation 4 coming this holiday season, and most avid gamers that are looking for new hardware will be investing in one or both of those consoles.

Finally, many avid gamers associate Android (and iOS for that matter) games with phones and tablets, and tend to look at those games as inferior experiences to console and dedicated handheld gaming.

Here’s the thing, though–avid gamers looked at another gaming console as providing inferior experiences to more casual audiences. That console was Nintendo’s Wii, and it recently crossed the 100 million-sold mark since it’s 2006 release. Unfortunately for Nintendo, when they developed the WiiU, they got away from what made them so successful last generation created an expensive console that left more casual gamers behind.

Amazon has a golden opportunity here to fill a missing spot in this upcoming console generation. For that matter, Apple does as well, but seems uninterested in taking gaming further than it currently is on iOS devices. Both Amazon and Apple already have app-based ecosystems full of games. Unlike the Ouya, they also both have brand recognition and a built in consumer base. So, if Amazon decided to put together an inexpensive gaming console that featured a controller and played all the games on their app store and then some? A lot of parents would be seriously considering that console for their kids this holiday season.

It makes sense that the Amazon console would be able to take advantage of other apps as well, like the Amazon Prime Video library, Netflix, and other streaming media apps.

So, imagine an Amazon gaming console and controller combo releases this holiday season for $99. It plays hundreds of games from the Amazon App Store, and a new app or game can be downloaded for free each day. The console also features Netlfix, Prime Instant Video, Audible, and more. Maybe it even allows you to use your Kindle Fire HD as a touch-based controller or a second screen.

Anyway, you get the picture. If Amazon plays their cards right, they could deal a substantial blow to both Apple and Nintendo, and offer the less expensive gaming experience to families that the Wii did in the last console generation.

I am very excited to see what happens with this, and I hope the rumors don’t turn out to be unfounded. There is definitely a part of the gaming market to be filled here, and someone will eventually take advantage of the opportunity. It’s only a matter of time before Apple comes to its senses, so Amazon should strike while the iron is hot.