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"Thorgrim" from Breakaway. Photo via Amazon.
“Thorgrim” from Breakaway. Photo via Amazon.

Amazon Game Studios, the gaming development arm of Amazon, today revealed its first titles that feature deep integration with Twitch, the live streaming company that Amazon acquired for $1 billion in 2014.

The games signal Amazon’s continued investment in the gaming industry, as well as its ambitions for new verticals like eSports and live-streaming. One of the games even includes the ability for users to wager loyalty points that can be exchanged for in-game rewards — effectively moving Amazon into the emerging area of eSports betting.

Amazon on Thursday at TwitchCon in San Diego, Calif., debuted Breakaway“a 4v4 mythological sport brawler built for fast action, teamwork, and live-streaming.” Breakaway is Amazon’s first game to be powered by Amazon Lumberyard, the game engine that runs on Amazon Web Services.

“Players fight for dominance across fabled locations such as El Dorado, Atlantis, and Styx,” the game description reads. “They battle to control the Relic — the center of Breakaway’s action — passing it to teammates, defending it from attackers, and smashing it into an opponent’s base to score.”

Breakaway features four new ways for streamers to interact with Twitch users, including Stream+, the wagering system:

  • Metastream allows streamers to customize their broadcasts with real-time stat overlays.
  • Broadcaster Match Builder lets broadcasters invite their followers to join their matches.
  • Broadcaster Spotlight adds to the excitement of streaming. It tells players when they’re in a match that’s being broadcast, and lets them follow the broadcaster with a single click.
  • Stream+ gives broadcasters new ways to interact with their viewers through polls, and by allowing viewers to wager loyalty points that are redeemable for in-game rewards.

Amazon invited eSports players on stage at TwitchCon on Thursday to demo Breakaway. Gameplay was live-streamed on Twitch.

breakaway11

breakaway11

Leaders from Amazon Game Studios stressed the Twitch integration during the announcement at TwitchCon. They talked about the importance of bringing along the Twitch community as they make improvements to the game. Amazon showed a video that noted how “we’re going straight for the Twitch customer” with the new games.

“If you think about it, the Twitch community has already changed the way games are experienced,” said Michael Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games. “What we think is next for the Twitch community is to change the way that games are made.”

Amazon Game Studios is also working on two other games “built for Twitch broadcasters, viewers, and players”: New World and Crucible.

New World.
New World.
Crucible.
Crucible.

Here are descriptions from Amazon:

  • New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows players to carve out their own destiny with other players in a living, cursed land. Players decide how to play, what to do, and whom to work with–or against–in an evolving world that transforms with seasons, weather, and time of day. Players can band together to reclaim monster-haunted wilds and build thriving civilizations, or strike out alone, surviving in the face of supernatural terrors and murderous player bandits. With emergent gameplay and rich social features, including deep Twitch integration with broadcaster-led events, achievements, and rewards, the only limit in the New World is a player’s ambition.
  • Crucible is a battle to the last survivor on a hostile, alien world. Players choose and customize heroes, making alliances and betraying allies on their path to victory. An additional player heightens the drama by triggering events, live-streaming the battles, and interacting with viewers.

These aren’t the first video games that Amazon has developed, but it does mark the first real product integration between Amazon and Twitch. The three games are also the only titles featured on the Amazon Games Studios website.

Twitch lets people stream their video game sessions and attracts more than 100 million users and 1.7 million broadcasters per month. It’s described as the “ESPN of the video game industry” where viewers go to watch live footage of video games being played. The platform is now expanding beyond gaming into new verticals like arts and music.

Twitch CEO Emmett Shear speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt SF earlier this month. (GeekWire photo)
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt SF earlier this month. (GeekWire photo)

Since acquiring Twitch, Amazon has quietly grown its Amazon Game Studios team and recently acquired gaming content platform Curse. The company, which has 111 open positions for Amazon Game Studios, has created an ecosystem it describes as a “sandbox of innovation” that includes Twitch, Lumberyard, AWS, and Curse.

Amazon is also now streaming its original TV shows on Twitch. But it hasn’t released anything new that fully integrates Twitch’s platform — until now.

“I’m really excited to say that we figured out a really cool way to join them up,” Twitch CEO Emmett Shear said of Amazon and Twitch, speaking this month at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. “I could not be more excited for us to finally launch our first really deep product integration with Amazon.”

Shear said that two years ago, he knew there would be huge value that could be unlocked by building products that bring together Amazon and Twitch, which was nearly acquired by Google before Amazon paid $1 billion to purchase the company.

“We had this huge population of some of the most dedicated gamers in the world, and Amazon is the center of shopping and increasingly all kinds of media and hardware,” he said. “We thought there had to be a way to connect these two things. It’s so obvious.”

Patrick Gilmore, an Amazon Game Studios leader that came to the company via Amazon’s acquisition of Double Helix Games in 2014, detailed some of the thinking behind building Breakaway in this blog post. From the post:

The story of Breakaway goes all the way back to the acquisition of Double Helix over two years ago. Developers who worked on Killer Instinct for Microsoft formed the kernel of the original team and were deeply influenced by the experience of watching Twitch broadcasters stream KI mere hours after the game was launched.

Today, we don’t think of ourselves so much as Double Helix. In addition to our DNA from Shiny, the Collective, Double Helix and Reflexive Studios, we’ve added amazingly talented new developers from Bungie, Riot, Blizzard, Turtle Rock and more. We’ve come together as a team in the context of Amazon’s intensive customer obsession, big thinking, and constant drive to invent new things. As we’ve grown, we took to thinking of ourselves as Amazon Game Studios Orange County, or AGS OC. Hi. Nice to meet you. This is our first game for Amazon, and we hope you love it as much as we do.

Throughout the amazing changes of the past two years, the Breakaway team has sustained their love for tournament viable gameplay, direct control and hair-on-fire intensity. For their new game, they resolved to add teamwork to that formula. And from the very first blank sheet of paper, the team thought about streaming.

Mind you, this was before Amazon acquired Twitch. Once Twitch, and more recently Curse, joined the Amazon family, the whole idea of designing for broadcast and viewership as well as gameplay were deeply ingrained in the sensibilities of the team.

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