In the olden days, you bought a computer game at a shop. It would be supplied in a box far bigger than it needed to be, with screenshots from a system better than the one you owned.
You’d take it home, insert the cassette or disc, and play it on a single device, either alone or with friends.
Today, many people use cloud-hosted gaming platforms like Steam, rather than buying games individually.
Subscribers log into a platform where numerous games are hosted remotely and played over the internet.
Steam is the best-known example of this phenomenon, though Google Stadia has been gaining subscribers since its launch last November.
Amazon has now unveiled its own cloud-hosted gaming platform, Luna.
Compatible with PC, Mac and Amazon devices, it also works on iOS through a Progressive Web App – effectively a cross between a browser tab and a standalone program.
Android compatibility is likely to be rolled out before Luna’s UK release.
Installing and running Amazon Luna enables you to stream games without downloading or installing individual titles.
This lets people play on whichever device they are currently online with, rather than being restricted to a specific console or machine.
Updates will be rolled out as they become available, including future 4K support, with 1080p resolution at 60fps the current standard.
Luna incorporates features absent from other platforms, including integration with Amazon-owned Twitch. Alexa is also built-in, as you might expect.
A proprietary controller resembles Microsoft’s Xbox handset, while it’s possible to play games with a keyboard and mouse or through a Bluetooth device.
Amazon has a unique advantage in that its Web Services division is able to provide lightning-fast hosting and distribution services for Luna.
That should ensure the service is always available, with connection speeds limited only by individual users’ broadband or mobile networks.
The platform can support four local controllers for co-operative gaming, but there’s no multiplayer functionality in the same location.
However, it’s possible to run two different streams simultaneously, splitting an account between two people.
Genius or Luna-cy?
At the time of writing, no UK release date has been confirmed for Luna.
In America, it will cost $5.99 per month, and American companies often charge the same prices in dollars and pounds, despite the latter’s greater value.
(Some observers have suggested Luna’s price may increase once more games are available and subscriber numbers have increased.)
At the outset, monthly subscriptions will provide access to a hundred titles including GRID, Resident Evil 7, Control and Yooka-Laylee.
A tie-up with French programmer Ubisoft means games like Far Cry 6 and Assassins Creed Valhalla will be available from the day of release.
It’s also been reported Windows games will work on Luna without requiring any modifications.
When other titles follow, it’ll be possible to compare Amazon Luna to Google’s Stadia, Valve’s Steam and Microsoft’s xCloud.
At this pre-launch stage, the signs certainly look encouraging.