Amazon’s latest game could be a ‘Fortnite’ rival

After two delays, Amazon’s upcoming shooter is finally coming out. But “Crucible” might already be too late to the game.

“Crucible,” which will be released May 20, was delayed twice due to Covid-19, according to franchise lead Colin Johanson. First as the development team adapted to working from home and then because the team questioned the timing of publishing a game during a pandemic.

CNN Business got an early look at the game and the chance to play alongside other press and game developers online.

The game is free to play and available only on PC. It combines elements from adventure and questing games, like defeating monsters for experience points, as well as features from popular shooters.

“Crucible” is set in an apocalyptic world where very few people are able to venture outside. Those who do must find work as freelancers, hunting creatures to collect essence, a special material that helps them level up and grow more powerful. Like 2019’s “Death Stranding” from Hideo Kojima, a game which centers on a delivery guy’s attempts to keep his packages safe while traversing a wasteland, those themes might resonate too closely with an audience facing the pandemic.

“We didn’t have any concerns about the themes of ‘Crucible,’ which is set on a fictional planet at the edge of known space,” said Louis Castle, studio head of Relentless Studios, the studio within Amazon Game Studios responsible for the game. “We did think hard about what it meant to launch a game right now, and after a lot of reflection we decided that contributing the joy that comes from games was one small way we could give people something positive right now.”

Several analysts told CNN Business that “Crucible” might be behind the times.

“These companies are like huge oil tankers that cannot exactly turn on a dime. They make a decision, it takes years to execute, and by the time the product comes out, the market has totally changed direction,” said David Cole, founder and CEO of research firm DFC Intelligence. “Both ‘Crucible’ and the upcoming ‘New World,’ which got delayed again, are high quality titles for 3 or 4 years ago.”

Amazon’s “New World” is an upcoming massive multiplayer online role-playing game slated for August. It’s set in the 17th century on a supernatural mysterious island called Aeternum, game director Scot Lane told CNN Business last December.

In 2016, when Amazon first announced “Crucible,” the genre of battle royale, in which teams or individual players fight to be the last one standing, was just starting to take off. Games like “H1Z1” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” helped make battle royale popular as a genre.

“That was when battle royale exploded and went more mainstream than ever and really global. ‘H1Z1’ was popular in a few regions, but ‘PUBG’ went truly global,” PUBG creator Brandon Greene told CNN Business in an interview last November.

“Crucible,” which was loosely inspired by the “Hunger Games” franchise, initially fit in this category.

Then in 2017, Epic Games released “Fortnite,” and two years later it was followed by Electronic Arts’ “Apex Legends.” Both free-to-play battle royale titles were blockbuster hits. Even established franchises like “Tetris,” “Fallout,” and “Call of Duty” caught onto the battle royale trend.

By 2020, battle royale is already everywhere in gaming, and Amazon knows this.

“We also came to that conclusion and shifted away from [battle royale] a lot…I think ‘Crucible’ is something entirely unique unto itself,” said Johanson, the franchise lead.

Over the years, game developers added new modes to “Crucible,” making battle royale just a side feature. All the modes are multiplayer player-versus-player, but “Crucible” goes beyond the “last player standing” gameplay of traditional battle royales. There’s a mode in which players have to capture objectives that is more reminiscent of “League of Legends” or “Dota 2,” and another mode in which larger teams face off and players have the chance to respawn. In all modes, there are Jurassic-like creatures grazing over the lands for players to attack, which is uncommon for battle royale games.

Amazon still doesn’t have any brand name recognition to its game development arm, so its reputation will grow based on whether fans find “Crucible” or its upcoming massive multiplayer game “New World” fun and well-made, analysts say.

But regardless of how well either game does, Amazon already has its foot in the gaming industry through offering its web services to major developers and through attracting millions of pageviews on Twitch, the livestreaming king.

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