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Amazon, Google and why you can’t just invent a blockbusting games developer

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February 03, 2021 at 08:00AM

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The failure of two online giants shows you can’t just pour in money and watch games pop out – a game studio culture takes time to develop

It was perhaps not the most surprising video game industry revelation of all time. Last week, Bloomberg published an eviscerating exposé on the dysfunctional culture at Amazon Game Studios, the development teams formed by the online retail giant, which have so far failed to produce a single hit title for PC or consoles, despite recruiting a wealth of industry veterans. The backstory as presented in the article is almost too predictable: Amazon trusted its game studios to a company veteran, Mike Frazzini, with no experience in game development, who greenlit expensive projects that chased already successful titles (a League of Legends clone called Nova, a Fortnite competitor named Intensity) and ended up being cancelled. According to staff who spoke to Bloomberg, the studios also adopted a “bro culture” in which female staff were belittled and sidelined. Bloomberg said they approached Amazon for a response, but a spokeswoman declined to comment or make Frazzini available for an interview.

Then came the news that Google would be closing its own game development studios in Los Angeles and Montreal, neither of which have yet produced a game for its Stadia streaming service. “Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially,” wrote Stadia GM and vice president Phil Harrison in his blog post explaining the company’s decision to focus on the platform rather than on game development. But should this have come as a surprise to a man who previously launched consoles at Microsoft and Sony? Possibly not.

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