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As a game console, Amazon's Fire TV fizzles

Hayden Dingman | July 10, 2014
Maybe we were too hard on the Ouya.

Maybe we were too hard on the Ouya.

I'm not going to pretend for a second that the Ouya is a great piece of gaming hardware. It's not. Thanks to the breakneck pace of our mobile industry, the Ouya's internals were already outdated by the time the box was actually released, the controller was a stiff and sticky piece of garbage, and the connection between the controller and the console was spotty at best.

But the Ouya was released by a scrappy bunch of underdogs with very little hardware experience, and funded off the backs of the community.

What's Amazon's excuse?

Fire into the sun

It's been approximately three months since Amazon unveiled its Fire TV as a full-spectrum entertainment device, with Android-based gaming prominently featured as part of that package.

Three months to hammer out the kinks, build up a compelling library of games, and make the Amazon Fire TV an attractive gaming purchase — and that's increasingly necessary, considering the Fire TV isn't just competing with the Ouya now but also Google's in-house Android TV.

Amazon simply hasn't done enough. First of all, the best games on the Fire TV are still the games that launched alongside the console in April — namely, Telltale's adventure games (Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead) and the PS2-era Grand Theft Auto games. I'll also give Amazon a point for its self-published game Sev Zero, which is at least an interesting entry in the tower defense genre.

The rest is a mishmash of tablet endless runners and other 2004-era Flash game garbage. In other words, it's the type of stuff you'd be fine playing on a phone on the way to work, but not the type of game you typically sit down in front of your TV to play for any great span of time.

Discoverability through the Fire TV itself is a nightmare. The Games channel lets you access games you have installed or browse through curated lists, but when I tried to go to the Categories section and just look through all available games, I was served an empty list. There was no other way to look through the available titles.

Oh well. I downloaded a selection of the highest rated games and went through them one by one: Sev Zero, Wolf Among Us, Badland, Hungry Shark Evolution, Fenix Box, and Grandpa and the Zombies.

Performance, or the lack thereof

I don't know what kind of gatekeeping process Amazon has in place, but it needs to be revisited. I downloaded one game, Fenix Box, that wouldn't work with either the Fire TV remote or Amazon's gamepad. It would launch and then just sit at the start screen.


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