When a top-flight video game developer begins work on a new title, it might spend a year or two working exclusively on a brand new engine — the software framework off which all the pretty graphics and impossible-to-beat enemies run. Imagine the industry’s surprise, then, when Amazon comes along and releases a AAA engine for free.
That’s exactly what the eCommerce giant did on Tuesday (Feb. 9). Amazon made Lumberyard, an engine derived from developer Crytek’s industry standard CryEngine platform, free to download immediately. Notably, Amazon is not requiring developers to agree to pay for a license, subscription fees or even future revenue-sharing agreements for the engine.
Like every one of Amazon’s projects, though, Lumberyard wouldn’t go free unless the math added up in Amazon’s favor. According to The Verge, it will in time. While anybody can download Lumberyard for free, multiplayer games that require server hosting are required to purchase server space from Amazon directly. Moreover, the retail giant purchased Twitch, a video game live streaming platform, for close to $1 billion in 2014. It might be a bit of a gamble, but if Amazon gets lucky and sees a few popular video games come out of the Lumberyard experiment, it suddenly gains revenue streams from both direct server sales and indirect traffic via its integrated Twitch services.
Mike Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games, is confident Lumberyard is what the burgeoning community of indie game developers need — and want.
“[They] wanted a powerful game engine that was inexpensive and deeply connected with AWS and helped them build reach and audience,” Frazzini told Gamasutra. “That’s what we tried to do: a free triple-A game engine that’s deeply integrated with AWS and Twitch and offers full source.”