Amazon Launches its own Game Engine: Lumberyard

There’s a lot of bearded men in Seattle these days…

Amazon Lumberyard

Yesterday Amazon finally went public with the first major product from its game development group: the Lumberyard engine. Amazon’s game engine, editor, and samples are publicly available for free from Amazon Web Services and they require no licensing, subscription, or revenue sharing from third-party developers. Amazon’s monetization model is based on requiring game developers to take advantage of Amazon’s Cloud services as the backend for the multiplayer portions of their games. Developers are free to roll their own, but they cannot use services that compete with Amazon’s.

To that end Amazon has integrated Twitch support directly into Lumberyard and setup the multiplayer portion of the game engine to leverage Amazon’s hosting and compute services out of the box. With the launch of the Lumberyard engine Amazon is lowering the technical and logistical barriers that have made triple AAA game development so expensive and time consuming in recent years.

Back in April of last year SemiAccurate’s own Charlie Demerjian brought news from our moles that Amazon was making major investments into building its own video game development capabilities. The Lumberyard game engine which is based in large part on Crytek’s CryEngine is the second step on Amazon’s roadmap to achieving dominance in the video game market. The first step of course was hiring the right staff.

As Charlie said then, “The digging on this one started out with a Crytek announcement last month about a ‘huge’ deal for the company. Our sources indicate it was just that, a CryEngine license deal worth tens of millions of dollars. The licensee was of course Amazon and they are purported to have what is effectively an unlimited license for CryEngine to do, well, whatever they want. Given the price paid it tens of times what a normal game engine license costs, there are probably no strings attached for the etail giant.”

As it turns out what Amazon wanted to do with the CryEngine was to integrate its own services and then give the whole thing away for free to strengthen the quality of the game engine that its internal projects are based on and to hopefully entice third-party developers to move their backend onto Amazon’s cloud. The key sticking point here is whether or not Amazon’s Lumberyard is good enough to make other developers move away from more traditional solutions like Unity, Unreal Engine, CryEngine, and the Source Engine.

Amazon Lumberjack In Editor

In our admittedly cursory testing of the Lumberyard beta everything seemed to be squared away from a tools and performance perspective. Stability of course still needs some work, loading one sample in particular crashed the editor every time we tried it. But Lumberyard is in a good place given that this is only the initial version.

Amazon Lumberjack In Editor Water

Amazon’s Lumberyard does have one big advantage to help kick start its ecosystem; it’s based on the CryEngine. If you’re in the early stages of working on a CryEngine-based game, there’s little incentive now to continue with that ecosystem when you can move to an extremely similar product from Amazon with the knowledge that Amazon is a much more stable and customer-focused company than Crytek as of late.

There is also this rather comical line in the Lumberyard FAQ:

Q. If I build a single-player game that uses no cloud connectivity, do I have to pay to use the engine?
No, in this case you would pay us nothing.

So now Amazon has an engine that it’s showing it off and giving it out to the rest of the world. While the jury is still out on if Amazon’s Lumberyard will take off a more important question remains: where are Amazon’s first-party AAA games? Last year Charlie’s sources painted a chaotic picture of the conditions inside of Amazon’s game development group. To be fair to Amazon Lumberyard is an interesting and well considered entry into the game engine marketplace. But so far all that Amazon has to show for its investment into game development is a handful of mobile games aimed at its Fire Phone, Fire Tablet, and Fire TV platforms. Lumberyard is clearly a triple AAA quality engine; so where are Amazon’s triple AAA games? More when we have it.

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.