Launched as a competitor to the already-deceased Google Stadia, Amazon Luna is a video game streaming service that is sadly limited by a startling lack of available software for paying and willing customers. While it offers fantastic quality game streaming and a library of software to play, there’s still worry that the service may follow its predecessor’s grim fate.
Having just launched in the United Kingdom, Amazon’s video game streaming service has risen from the ashes of Google’s Stadia failure. Unlike Google’s ill-fated service, Luna is a subscription service in the vein of Xbox Game Pass. Instead of paying individually for games you don’t own, you pay a monthly subscription to access a library of content from your phone, laptop or compatible TV.
For TV play, Luna supports a number of modern displays, but also a large swath of Amazon SmartTV devices. If you have a Fire Stick building up dust in a drawer somewhere like we did, Luna is as plug-and-play as it comes.
This is helped by the surprisingly phenomenal Luna Controller, a device that also takes a fair amount of inspiration from Google’s also great Stadia Controller. While this pad is more of a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller clone than Stadia’s PS4-inspired design, it inherits Stadia’s ability to connect directly to game servers.
Outside of a soft d-pad and some buggy firmware, the Luna Controller is a remarkably comfortable piece of kit. It’s not as premium feeling as a DualSense or Xbox Elite Controller, but it is perfectly designed to rest in the hands. Combined with its tactile buttons, comfortable sticks, fantastic grips and ability to be used with a wired connection, Bluetooth or via Wi-Fi, circumventing additional latency you’d receive from using Bluetooth on your device.
Dubbed Cloud Direct, this feature makes Amazon Luna streaming even more fantastic. In our experience, we already experienced surprisingly great connections with strong image quality and input latency in games such as Batman: Arkham Knight, Alien Isolation and even frantically fast games like Sonic Colours.
Curiously, we did experience consistent issues with a couple of titles on the service. For example, Epic Games’ free-to-play phenomenon Fortnite always seemed to have more latency than other games, alongside stuttering and other issues that were barely present on every other game we tested on the same wireless internet connection.
The most important aspect of video game streaming, in our opinion, is the quality of experience you receive. The sheer visual fidelity of games running on Luna does fall behind that of Xbox Cloud Gaming or Nvidia GeForce Ultimate. For example, games that feature ray-tracing on PC and consoles such as Resident Evil 2 and Control lack ray-tracing on Luna, falling back onto screen-space reflections. Luna streaming also caps out at 1080p playback whereas up-to-4K streaming is available elsewhere.
Despite this, the actual gaming experience on Luna is fantastic. With as low input latency as you can get from streaming, games still look great, and they’re as responsive as you need. While we wouldn’t suggest playing, say, a competitive fighting game through the service, the majority of titles available on the platform lend themselves quite well to the service’s method of control.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Amazon Luna game streaming is its awfully small content library. Compared to the likes of Xbox Cloud Gaming, Luna offers a paltry number of games included with your Prime Subscription. If you pay extra for channels, similar to Prime Video, you will get more options, but even then it’s minor.
The main star of the show is Luna+. For £8.99 a month, you get a small selection of great games including Alien Isolation, Batman: Arkham Knight, Resident Evil 2, Control, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated and more. It’s great for a casual player, but for more hardcore gamers, it’s slim pickings.
Luna does have one more interesting trick up its sleeve: Luna Couch. This feature allows you to instantly play co-op multiplayer games with friends across the world by having both of you connect to Amazon’s services independently, circumventing the extra latency that can be found by streaming games on Steam Together or Parsec. It’s a genuinely great addition.
At the end of the day, Amazon Luna is a fine subscription service, but it could be a great success if Amazon gives it the attention it deserves. Its subscription model is great, and the controller is sublime, but everything depends on how long Amazon wants to support the service. Will we see more powerful blades running the games in the future? Is ray-tracing going to be supported? Will new AAA games launch on the service.
While the future of Amazon Luna is uncertain, the product that Amazon has built is great in our books. The streaming service itself is far better than Stadia’s ever was, and we have high hopes for the future. There’s great potential here, if Amazon doesn’t squander it.