Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fire TV has always been a bit more than just a set-top box for streaming video.
When launched, it was already a sort of mini gaming console, with some titles requiring the purchase of a game controller and others using the device's simple remote control. Fire TV allows users to play a number of games on their television, including many that became popular on tablets.
Fire TV brought Minecraft to the living room without players needing a Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox or a Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation. That's a small step, as Minecraft -- although incredibly popular -- is a relatively simple game. But Amazon has pushed things even farther. It already has brought some older console titles, including a number of the Grand Theft Auto games, to Fire TV. Now, a new partnership will enhance the selection of top-tier titles on the platform.
What did Amazon do now?
The online retail giant has made a deal with GameFly to stream games to Fire TV. The company detailed the deal in a press release.
Using the GameFly service, customers can play top quality PC titles, including Warner Brothers' acclaimed Batman series, Darksiders II, and Dirt 3. Game packs start at $6.99 a month and at launch customers can choose from six gaming packs. Customers can use the GameFly service with the Amazon Fire TV Game Controller, which is available for $39.99.
There will be 40 titles in total at launch, though neither company has specified a release date for the service. Fire TV does not appear, at least at the time of the announcement, as a device choice on GameFly.com. Still, Amazon is getting access to console-quality games -- albeit not the newest ones -- that offer game play far more evolved than Fire TV's existing tablet-style fare.
Why does this matter?
Kindle Fire TV costs $99; adding the controller, which is similar to a traditional console model, costs another $39.99. The games sold for the system also cost less than $7 to buy on average, and GameFly will rent packs of related games for unlimited play starting at $6.99 per month.
By contrast, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 -- the latest consoles from Microsoft and Sony -- start at $339.95 and $399, respectively. Those are bundles that each come with a popular game, but new top titles will cost close to $60 and even year-old games sell for $20-$30.
Amazon will not have all the titles, nor will it have the hottest new releases, but it has made the Fire a cheaper, viable alternative to shelling out big bucks for a full, dedicated game console.
Will it work?
It's worth noting that both Xbox One and PS4 have to date outsold the consoles they replaced (the Xbox 360 and the PS3). The demise of both game systems has been predicted, as has the end of game consoles as a whole, yet both continue to sell.
Still, Amazon is getting closer to making Fire TV a viable alternative. Nintendo showed with the first Wii that a market exists for lower-priced family consoles. Fire TV could fill that niche, and being an excellent set-top box that offers something for the whole family adds to that appeal. If Amazon brings more games to the platform, some users -- particularly families with younger kids -- could consider it a more sensible purchase than a PS4 or Xbox One.
Fire TV is not ready to take core market share away from Sony and Microsoft, but this deal means it will steal some less hard-core gamers. Should Amazon continue to add top titles either on its own or through GameFly, the $99 set-top box could ultimately become a console alternative for a wider array of game players.