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 Aug. 18, 11:15 a.m. ET: Added new metrics on New World's beta player count from Amazon.


He couldn’t go to the cabin, so he brought the cabin to his cubicle

"Building forts” has long been a passion of Lucas Mundt's. Now, his employer plans to give out $200 stipends for cubicle decor.

Lucas Mundt scoured Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to complete his masterpiece.

Photo: Mike Beckham

It took a little work to get viral cubicle-decorator Lucas Mundt on the phone. On Monday, he was taking a half-day to help a friend fix his laminate floor. Tuesday, I caught him in the middle of an officewide Pop-A-Shot basketball tournament. His employer, the Oklahoma water bottle-maker Simple Modern, was getting rid of the arcade-style hoops game, and “glorious prizes and accolades” were on the line, Mundt said. (CEO Mike Beckham was eliminated in the first round, I heard from a source.)

Why did I want to talk with Mundt? His cubicle astonished nearly 300,000 Twitter users this week after Beckham tweeted out photos of it converted into what can only be described as a lakeside cabin motif. Using leftover laminate flooring that he found on Facebook Marketplace, Mundt created the appearance of a hardwood floor, and he carefully applied contact paper to give his cubicle walls, desk and file cabinet the look of a cozy cabin. The space heater that looks like a wood stove? Purely decorative: Mundt runs hot. The two fake mounted animal heads? They’re “kind of ironic,” said Mundt, who’s never gone hunting.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

COVID-19 accelerated what many CEOs and CTOs have struggled to do for the past decade: It forced organizations to be agile and adjust quickly to change. For all the talk about digital transformation over the past decade, when push came to shove, many organizations realized they had made far less progress than they thought.

Now with the genie of rapid change out of the bottle, we will never go back to accepting slow and steady progress from our organizations. To survive and thrive in times of disruption, you need to build a resilient, adaptable business with systems and processes that will keep you nimble for years to come. An essential part of business agility is responding to change by quickly developing new applications and adapting old ones. IT faces an unprecedented demand for new applications. According to IDC, by 2023, more than 500 million digital applications and services will be developed and deployed — the same number of apps that were developed in the last 40 years.[1]

Keep Reading Show less
Denise Broady, CMO, Appian
Denise oversees the Marketing and Communications organization where she is responsible for accelerating the marketing strategy and brand recognition across the globe. Denise has over 24+ years of experience as a change agent scaling businesses from startups, turnarounds and complex software companies. Prior to Appian, Denise worked at SAP, WorkForce Software, TopTier and Clarkston Group. She is also a two-time published author of “GRC for Dummies” and “Driven to Perform.” Denise holds a double degree in marketing and production and operations from Virginia Tech.

Ripple’s CEO won’t apologize for taking on the SEC

“The SEC declared war on Ripple. We’re defending ourselves.”

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse isn’t apologizing for his company’s pugnacious stance with regulators.

Photo: Ripple

Ripple just bought back a huge chunk of its shares this week, which CEO Brad Garlinghouse touted as a sign of the crypto company’s momentum.

But he also used the opportunity to hit back at the agency that the crypto powerhouse considers its nemesis: the SEC.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and 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.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

The Twitter account Elon Musk would pay to delete

‘I’ve put a lot of work into it, and $5k is just really not enough.’

Elon Musk considers the Twitter account a security risk.

Photoillustration: Brendan Smialowski/AFP and Getty Images Plus; Protocol

“Can you take this down? It is a security risk.”

That’s how Elon Musk opened a conversation with 19-year-old Jack Sweeney over Twitter DM last fall. He was referencing a Twitter account, called @ElonJet, which tracks the movements of his private jet around the world.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.


Intel must spend $100B in Ohio now to avoid spending more later

Forget the politics. Here’s why Intel’s new factories in Ohio are crucial to the company’s future and its hope of regaining the chip manufacturing leadership spot.

Intel is doubling down on its own contract manufacturing business for fabless chipmakers.

Photo: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

Intel’s plans to invest up to $100 billion in a new group of chip factories outside Columbus, Ohio, will have a much greater impact on the future of its manufacturing division compared to any short-term political or supply-chain concerns it might solve.

To hear President Joe Biden, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tell it, the new factories — known as fabs in this world — are going to help fix inflation, make the U.S. more competitive, drive down the soaring cost of cars, ease the chip supply-chain shocks and improve U.S. national security. That’s a lot, even for one of the biggest projects in Intel’s storied history. It will be years before that capacity comes online, and whether a new chip factory in Ohio could actually solve any or all of those issues is debatable.

Keep Reading Show less
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a Technology Reporter at Protocol covering the semiconductor industry. He has worked for Barron's magazine as a Technology Reporter, and its sister site MarketWatch. He is based in San Francisco.

Latest Stories