Talking tech since 2003

It seems that last year’s rumors of an Amazon-made, Android-powered game console have come back into fashion, as a post on VG247 today reports that the online retail giant will be releasing said console sometime this year for less than $300. According to the post, the console will offer up the same sort of games you can find on the Android App Store, as well as those you can find on other Android consoles like the OUYA or the GameStick, but will also offer the same digital video and audio selection from Amazon Instant and Amazon Prime. This information has been confirmed by “multiple sources,” though Amazon has yet to offer any comments on it one way or the other.

The post describes the console as being “roughly the same size as the PSone redesign, grey in colour, oblong in shape and with sharp edges.” Moreover, the console is being shopped around to various game developers and publishers, likely an effort to convince them to make optimized versions of pre-existing games for the console, and, much more importantly, to provide exclusive titles that can’t be found on any other platform.

The post also links back to an article in the Boston Globe from earlier this month which reprints a recruitment letter sent out in the Boston-area explaining that the company was “working on a new revolutionary V1 product that will allow us to deliver Digital Media to our customers in new ways and disrupt the current market place,” which will be “even bigger than Kindle.”

The Question

I’ve been wondering what Amazon would have to gain by releasing a video game console, especially one that has to compete with Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. “Under $300” still sounds like a lot of money for what is, in essence, a screen-less smartphone that you have to plug into your TV. Android games are great and all, but part of what has made them so popular is their portability. Being cheap and plentiful is certainly a helpful set of attributes, but not being able to take them on the go makes one wonder what Amazon’s really doing here.

Here’s Why It Makes Sense

The answer, however, has already been provided by the Kindle itself. Last month, we reported that owners of Amazon’s Kindle devices “spend $1,233 per year on Amazon compared to $790 per year for Amazon shoppers who don’t own one of the company’s e-readers or tablets.” That kind of disparity proves that Amazon’s device strategy is working, locking customers into an ecosystem that they’re enjoying. Offering a console that plays high-definition video and media on your TV (which we’d heard about as far back as April), while also providing a portal to shop on Amazon from the comfort of your couch, is a genius move.

But I still take issue with that under-$300 estimate. I think it’ll be lower—specifically, I think it’ll be subsidized for Amazon Prime members, probably offered at $100 or so. Amazon has the cash reserves to take a loss on a device like this if it means bringing in much more revenue in media services, which essentially have little to no overhead (no shipping, no warehousing, etc.).

I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, though the last time I did that, I was told “we don’t comment on rumors and speculation.” So I’m not holding my breath.

What do you think? How much would you pay for an Amazon game console?

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