Amazon has never launched a successful video game. Will New World be Big Tech’s first gaming hit?

Plagued by delays, the new MMO from Amazon Game Studios could still be a major success for the company.

An image of virtual avatars in Amazon’s New World.

New World has been delayed four times since last year, but the team is now gearing up for its all-important launch next month.

Image: Amazon Game Studios

The first success story for Amazon Game Studios may almost be upon us. New World, the ecommerce giant's massively multiplayer online game, is due out next month. But it's been a bumpy road for the Irvine-based development team. The most recent hurdle, after more than a year of remote work due to the pandemic, was yet another delay that pushed the release date out by one month.

Game director Scot Lane told Protocol the main culprit was bugs, as well as other unforeseen issues from running the game at unprecedented scale during a beta period that started in July. "We have a little bit more work to do than we thought," Lane said in an interview over Zoom last week. "The surprise for me was our alpha community didn't find nearly all the exploits the whole world found."

One bug, which allowed players to duplicate items, was discovered within days, and savvy fans worked together online to map out the best and most expedient ways of exploiting it. "Players are really clever at finding exploits. There are really no substitutes for that," Lane said. "It was clever and smart, and it was something we hadn't anticipated."

New World is a big gamble from Amazon's game division, launching into an established genre with heavyweights like World of Warcraft that have been around for two decades. And a lot is riding on the game's success after the highly public failure of Amazon's prior project.

The company's first foray into big-budget video games was called Crucible, a multiplayer online battle arena game influenced in part by major esports titles like Riot Games' League of Legends. But the game felt uninspired, derivative and directionless, with a hodgepodge of various design ideas pulling it many directions at once.

Crucible was launched last year and then, a few months later, put back into a closed beta state after it failed to gain traction. In October 2020, the company canceled it outright, feeding the narrative that tech companies like Amazon and Google have been throwing large sums of money at a problem they don't have the creative chops to solve. In February, Google closed down its internal game development division for its Stadia cloud service, choosing instead to license third-party games from established developers. The question since has been whether Amazon would follow suit.

That hasn't happened. New World is now Amazon's next big bet, and while it's been a rocky road not made any easier by COVID-19, the MMO is showing much more promise than Crucible after a successful beta that brought in "well over 1 million players," Amazon confirmed. "It was surprising. We had a lot more players than we expected come through. Honestly, we were humbled," Lane said.

The team has also shown a strong willingness to get New World right. Since the beginning of last year, New World has been delayed four times. That number of launch date misses might typically spell a disaster in the making. Instead, Lane said it's about ensuring the launch meets the team's expectations and those of its early, diehard alpha and beta players. (Trying to meet deadlines during the pandemic was also an extremely difficult task, he said.)

"About four or five days into the beta, we started discussing this among ourselves," Lane said of the delay. He added that the team fully expected to hit its Aug. 31 release date, but that "players found more bugs than expected" and there was simply more work to do. "It's important for us to listen to players and important for us to have a good launch," Lane said. "A good launch is everything in MMOs." The game is now scheduled to release on Sept. 28.

Player feedback has been the biggest driver of change for New World, Lane said. The game saw a surge in popularity on Twitch thanks to a promotional event Amazon ran with streamers in the U.S. and U.K. That attracted new players in droves, and with the new interest came more feedback about how New World could be improved. "If there's anything we've learned in the last few years, the more we engage players the better it is for everyone," Lane said. "The game is going to get bigger and bigger over time and it's going to be based on what they're asking for."

"I'm very frustrated about a lot of the problems that New World has, but I actually have a lot of faith in the game," popular Twitch streamer Asmongold told Dexerto earlier this month. "And the simple reason for that is because I complained about half of these things and they made them better. They listened to feedback." The company is now planning some changes to the full release, though it declined to share specifics. Lane said he wants new and existing players to be pleasantly surprised.

New World is arriving at a time of rapid change for the industry. Some game makers, like Epic and Roblox, are chasing the metaverse, collaborating with real-world brands and hosting concerts. Others, like EA, are pouring money into mobile and free-to-play. New World is more of a throwback to the heyday of the MMO genre. It does feature some new twists on combat and interesting social features like a competitive faction system that allows players to influence the world's power structure.

But New World's biggest differentiator is its business model. Most MMO games charge a monthly subscription fee, while many of the world's most successful esports and mobile hits have long since gone free-to-play to attract the most players possible and make money back through microtransactions.

New World, on the other hand, will cost $40 at launch, with no subscription fee. "We're a new game, and we have to earn trust with players," Lane said. New World, he added, is a "full-fledged MMO for $40 and no subscription … that seems like a good deal provided we can deliver on a full game."

Despite the delay, the timing is still promising for New World. Activision Blizzard is seeing an exodus of players from longtime MMO leader World of Warcraft due to the company's ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination crisis. Another major competitor, Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV, is struggling on a technical level to support an influx of new players. New World now has a chance to arrive on the scene and establish itself as a fresh newcomer to the genre.

After the flop of Crucible, the pressure is on Lane and the New World team to deliver and establish Amazon Game Studios as not just another fleeting hobby for the game-obsessed tech industry. "At the end of the day, we have to make players love this game," Lane said. "We want New World to be an experience that delights players."

Update August 18, 11:15AM ET: Added new metrics on New World's beta player count from Amazon.

Protocol | Policy

Why Twitch’s 'hate raid' lawsuit isn’t just about Twitch

When is it OK for tech companies to unmask their anonymous users? And when should a violation of terms of service get someone sued?

The case Twitch is bringing against two hate raiders is hardly black and white.

Photo: Caspar Camille Rubin/Unsplash

It isn't hard to figure out who the bad guys are in Twitch's latest lawsuit against two of its users. On one side are two anonymous "hate raiders" who have been allegedly bombarding the gaming platform with abhorrent attacks on Black and LGBTQ+ users, using armies of bots to do it. On the other side is Twitch, a company that, for all the lumps it's taken for ignoring harassment on its platform, is finally standing up to protect its users against persistent violators whom it's been unable to stop any other way.

But the case Twitch is bringing against these hate raiders is hardly black and white. For starters, the plaintiff here isn't an aggrieved user suing another user for defamation on the platform. The plaintiff is the platform itself. Complicating matters more is the fact that, according to a spokesperson, at least part of Twitch's goal in the case is to "shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks," raising complicated questions about when tech companies should be able to use the courts to unmask their own anonymous users and, just as critically, when they should be able to actually sue them for violating their speech policies.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

While it's easy to get lost in the operational and technical side of a transaction, it's important to remember the third component of a payment. That is, the human behind the screen.

Over the last two years, many retailers have seen the benefit of investing in new, flexible payments. Ones that reflect the changing lifestyles of younger spenders, who are increasingly holding onto their cash — despite reports to the contrary. This means it's more important than ever for merchants to take note of the latest payment innovations so they can tap into the savings of the COVID-19 generation.

Keep Reading Show less
Antoine Nougue,Checkout.com

Antoine Nougue is Head of Europe at Checkout.com. He works with ambitious enterprise businesses to help them scale and grow their operations through payment processing services. He is responsible for leading the European sales, customer success, engineering & implementation teams and is based out of London, U.K.

Protocol | Fintech

When COVID rocked the insurance market, this startup saw opportunity

Ethos has outraised and outmarketed the competition in selling life insurance directly online — but there's still an $887 billion industry to transform.

Life insurance has been slow to change.

Image: courtneyk/Getty Images

Peter Colis cited a striking statistic that he said led him to launch a life insurance startup: One in twenty children will lose a parent before they turn 15.

"No one ever thinks that will happen to them, but that's the statistics," the co-CEO and co-founder of Ethos told Protocol. "If it's a breadwinning parent, the majority of those families will go bankrupt immediately, within three months. Life insurance elegantly solves this problem."

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Protocol | Workplace

Remote work is here to stay. Here are the cybersecurity risks.

Phishing and ransomware are on the rise. Is your remote workforce prepared?

Before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The delta variant continues to dash or delay return-to-work plans, but before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

So far in 2021, CrowdStrike has already observed over 1,400 "big game hunting" ransomware incidents and $180 million in ransom demands averaging over $5 million each. That's due in part to the "expanded attack surface that work-from-home creates," according to CTO Michael Sentonas.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Enterprise

How GitHub COO Erica Brescia runs the coding gold mines

GitHub sits at the center of the world's software-development activity, which makes the Microsoft-owned code repository a major target for hackers and a trend-setter in open source software.

GitHub COO Erica Brescia

Photo: GitHub

An astonishing amount of the code that runs the world's software spends at least part of its life in GitHub. COO Erica Brescia is responsible for making sure that's not a disaster in the making.

Brescia joined GitHub after selling Bitnami, the open-source software deployment tool she co-founded, to VMware in 2019. She's responsible for all operational aspects of GitHub, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2018 for $7.5 billion in one of its largest deals to date.

Keep Reading Show less
Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is Protocol's enterprise editor, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire, and served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure.

Latest Stories