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Amazon Luna Review: Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Is Pure Potential. It Just Needs to Be Exploited

It’s been over three years since Amazon, shortly after Google with Stadia, announced its own cloud gaming service: Amazon Luna. Three years later, the service has finally arrived in Spain to compete against the powerful NVIDIA GeForce Now and the popular Xbox Cloud Gaming (Stadia is a thing of the past now).

It comes with a rather strong offering: free games included in Amazon Prime, a business model different from Stadia’s and more similar to Game Pass, and channels, two at the moment, that allow expanding the game library. At Xataka, we’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly review Amazon Luna, and this has been our experience.

Wait, What Exactly Is Amazon Luna?

Amazon Luna is, essentially, Amazon’s version of Google Stadia. Luna allows playing different titles directly in the cloud without the need for dedicated hardware beyond a controller. In fact, not even a controller because you can use your phone as a controller using the smartphone app. In that sense, we can use the Amazon Luna controller (which is purchased separately for $49.99) or one we already have at home, such as an Xbox or PlayStation controller, etc. We’ll discuss that later. On PC, a keyboard and mouse also work.

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However, Amazon Luna is less powerful than Google Stadia. The reason? Its maximum resolution and frame rate. Amazon Luna allows playing in FullHD at 60 FPS, a figure that may not be sufficient for all users at this stage, especially if playing on a TV. If playing from a mobile or a laptop, the story changes, but let’s stick with that idea: the maximum is FullHD at 60 FPS, provided we have a connection of at least 10 Mbps.

Speaking of platforms, and before discussing how to access the games, let’s talk about support. Amazon Luna can be played on Fire TVs, Fire tablets, some models of Samsung and LG TVs, Chrome on almost any platform, Edge on PC and Mac, and on iPhone and iPad through a web app. There’s no dedicated Android app either: it’s played through Google Chrome.

Amazon Luna (4)

And Now, Let’s Talk About Games. Amazon Luna Offers Four Options:

Amazon Prime

Subscribers to Amazon Prime can play a selection of rotating titles. Thus, these titles change every now and then. Right now, for example, ‘Fortnite’, ‘Trackmania’, ‘Ride 4’, ‘Encodya’, and ‘Tiny Lands’ are available. It’s the “free” version (in the sense that it doesn’t require an additional payment beyond Prime). It also allows linking our Ubisoft account to play titles purchased on their launcher. Note that this mode has a waiting period of about a minute to enter the games.

Amazon Luna+

This is Amazon Luna itself. It’s a subscription of $9.99 per month that grants access to the entire Amazon Luna catalog, which, it must be said, isn’t very extensive. There are around 100 titles, many of them family-friendly, although there are powerful titles like ‘Yakuza’, ‘Control’, ‘Devil May Cry 5’, ‘Mortal Shell’, or ‘Batman: Arkham Knight‘. A free seven-day trial is available, and it also reduces the aforementioned waiting time.

Ubisoft+

It needs no introduction. For $17.99 per month, we can access Ubisoft’s game catalog directly in the cloud. Ideal if playing ‘Far Cry’, ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Rainbow Six’, or ‘Watch Dogs’.

Jackbox Games

For $4.99, access to the entire collection of Jackbox Games is provided, simple titles focused on parties, such as ‘Quiplash’, ‘Trivia Murder Party’, and ‘Drawful’.

Moreover, there are two more things worth mentioning: Luna Couch and streaming on Twitch. Regarding the latter, it’s evident that being two Amazon services, Luna and Twitch would be compatible, so yes, you can stream Amazon Luna directly to Twitch. Luna Couch, on the other hand, allows playing local cooperative games with anyone via the Internet. To do this, just start a Luna Couch session, send a code to someone, and have that person join the game. Subscription to Amazon Luna is not necessary.

Amazon Luna

What surprises me the most is that Amazon has left out its two best games: ‘Lost Ark’ and ‘New World’, two MMORPGs that are really good (even though both had their issues at launch) and for some reason, they’re not on Amazon Luna but are available on GeForce Now. With ‘Blue Protocol’ and ‘Throne and Liberty’ a.k.a. ‘Lineage III’ in the works, it seems like a missed opportunity. We’ll see how things change, if they do, in the future.

Let’s Talk About the Controller

Now that we know what Amazon Luna is, let’s talk about the controller. As with Stadia’s controller, the key feature of the Amazon Luna controller is that it connects directly to Amazon’s servers through Cloud Direct technology. The idea behind this is to reduce latency but also to avoid having to constantly configure the controller on every device. Sync it once, sync it everywhere, just like Google Stadia. Moreover, the process is quite simple.

However, the Amazon Luna controller can also be used as a regular controller via Bluetooth or through USB connection. We can even use it to play on Windows by downloading the official driver from Amazon. Is it essential? Not at all, but if you’re a player who switches between devices frequently, it might be worth considering. Whether Amazon Luna convinces you enough to make the investment of $49.99 (half during the promotional period) depends on each individual.

Amazon Luna (3)

Regarding the controller’s build, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a lightweight, well-built controller that feels sturdy and everything is within reach. It doesn’t have any major fancy features, apart from the dedicated button to manage Amazon Luna and the built-in microphone with its corresponding switch to turn it on or off. Oh, and a headphone jack, a small plus for the controller. Otherwise, the button configuration is widely known.

To give credit where it’s due, the Luna controller impressed us. The buttons don’t click excessively, much less than those on Google Stadia, and the rear triggers are smooth and responsive, as are the thumbsticks. If I were to nitpick, I would have liked the thumbsticks to be a bit larger. It reminded me a lot of the Xbox controller. So much so that it also runs on batteries (included), a understandable decision (if the battery runs out, you just change the batteries and keep playing), but at this point, it feels quite “old-fashioned”. Personally, I would have preferred a controller with a rechargeable battery.

Playing on Amazon Luna

From my point of view, Amazon Luna falls short in terms of its catalog. I hope that, gradually, it will grow (and that Ubisoft might include, for example, Activision games now that they have the rights, wink wink, nudge nudge), but the truth is that the titles available in the catalog are not recent releases. Most are games that have been commercially available for a while and are now also on Luna.

However, what’s there is what’s available, and that’s what we’ve been able to review. For instance, I used Amazon Luna on my desktop computer connected via Ethernet with about 200 Mbps download and upload speeds, on an HONOR 70 connected via WiFi, and on a Surface 7 Pro also connected via WiFi. All the gameplay you’ll see, due to logistical reasons, has been recorded on the desktop PC, with the controller connected via WiFi.

A Connection of at Least 10 Mbps Is More Than Enough to Play on Amazon Luna

The performance of Amazon Luna is quite good, although it doesn’t reach the level of Google Stadia (a service that has many flaws but doesn’t perform poorly). The worst experience I’ve had was, without a doubt, with ‘Fortnite’. The game didn’t run quite smoothly, and I’m not sure if it’s due to the port itself (because it’s the PC version) or the service, because the rest of the games have worked perfectly fine.

Amazon Luna has almost no latency, and if there is any, it’s imperceptible. The service is very transparent to the user, and you end up forgetting that you’re playing in the cloud, even in very frenetic games like ‘Ultrakill’, whose gameplay (for which I apologize in the final stretch) you can see here. There are very occasional stutters, except in ‘Fortnite’, which, as you’ll see in the video, was a bit painful, but overall, Amazon Luna delivers. I insist that it might have been an isolated incident or something specific to the game because I haven’t had issues with other titles.

Amazon Luna (2)

You can play ‘Devil May Cry 5’, ‘Hot Wheels: Unleashed’, and other games with a stable frame rate and decent graphics, although sometimes, you can notice the compression seams. You can adjust this in the game itself, but it’s of no use since the performance significantly drops. Amazon Luna wants players to jump in and play, not fiddle around with graphics settings like GeForce Now allows and encourages, for example.

It’s a fairly robust service, but it’s crying out for more power. FullHD is a resolution that feels inadequate already, and if you play on a 2K monitor, like in my case, you’ll notice quite a few pixels. There’s also no support for ultrawide screens. 4K was promised in 2020, and we’re still waiting. Undoubtedly, that’s what will make the difference. If you have a FullHD monitor, this might not bother you much.

The performance on portable devices connected to WiFi is also good. The issue remains the same: PC games are designed for PCs. Reading texts, seeing distant objects… all of that is intended for a large screen. If you play on a mobile, the performance is quite good, but you’ll notice that everything is too small, and that’s not Luna’s fault; it’s because the game is designed for PC.

One thing I’ve noticed is the loading time. Accustomed to what the latest generation consoles or the most current PCs offer, Amazon Luna takes quite a bit longer to load. It’s not drastic, but when you’re used to something good, it’s hard to wait a bit longer for a screen to load or for something to start.

Amazon Luna, The Tech Basic’s Opinion

Amazon Luna has potential, but it lacks muscle and a strong catalog. While being a service that delivers what it promises, cloud gaming and a simple interface, it suffers from having a catalog of games that are too old, which most of us have probably already played or may not be to everyone’s taste. I miss some shooters, more triple-A games, sports games… Unfortunately, ‘Control’, ‘Alien: Isolation’, and ‘Devil May Cry’ aren’t enough to attract most players, especially if you don’t offer something superior in terms of performance and graphic quality.

Amazon Luna (6)

Honestly, the service seemed very good to us. Except for ‘Fortnite’, which, I insist, was an isolated incident, we’ve been able to play the rest of the games without major issues at a robust frame rate. After all, cloud gaming is not something new, and the technology is mature; it’s just a matter of polishing rough edges. In that sense, Amazon Luna doesn’t disappoint.

The problem, from my point of view, is that Amazon Luna costs $9.99 per month (plus $17.99 if you want access to Ubisoft+, plus $4.99 if you want Jackbox Games), and it offers a catalog that lacks power. One can hope that it will gradually grow (and decrease, as we know how licenses work), but for now, it’s a service that, while fantastic, falls somewhat short compared to its competitors like GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Although Amazon Luna Has Potential, Its Catalog Is Currently Not Very Appealing

The positive side? Trying it out is “free”. If you have Amazon Prime, you can try the rotating games and see how it goes, and if you think it might be for you, there’s the seven-day Luna+ trial. It’s the best way to find out if Amazon Luna convinces you or not. Personally, I find some things missing. I miss 4K, I miss support for ultrawide screens, I miss the catalog.

Amazon Luna (5)

In Conclusion

Amazon Luna is a service that performs very well, as expected, and has all the necessary potential to be a serious alternative for cloud gaming. However, it lacks a better catalog and higher resolution.

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