With the release of the FireTV, Amazon is positioning itself to be one of the leading contenders for media streaming in the living room. While the focus of the box is on providing Amazon content straight to your living room, they’ve also included gaming as an option. Currently the titles are limited to a few hundred, but as the library for the device grows and Amazon Game Studios produces content, the FireTV could turn out to be a better set top box with gaming features than the OUYA.
OUYA’s biggest failure was the controller; it was sluggish, the touchpad worked only half as well as it was supposed to and the considerable lag between input and actions appearing on screen means playing games is a less than stellar experience.
Amazon has managed to to avoid input lag almost entirely when it comes to the controller, which is a very basic tenant of controller design that should never be failed. Despite the intentional OnLive-like design and lifting the layout straight from Microsoft’s Xbox platform, the Amazon FireTV controller does have a few quirks of its own.
Is the FireTV Controller good?
The dead zone for the analog sticks is perhaps the most noticeable of these. When playing a game like Sev Zero, which requires precise aiming in order to get headshots, the ability to flick the stick for the slight movement can mean the difference between a higher score and a win or a failure. It’s only slightly annoying because these aren’t meant to be competitive games, but if FireTV ever gets something like Towerfall, or even a first person shooter where people play against one another, the dead zone will be extremely noticeable.
Another design decision that will affect people with larger hands is the inclusion of the battery bump that Microsoft managed to get rid of with the Xbox One. Enough people complained about having the battery pack in the middle of the controller that Microsoft worked out a better solution, but Amazon hasn’t done the same with its newest effort. It’s not really a problem for me personally since I have small hands, but for those of you who preferred the original Xbox’s Duke controller, you’re going to notice that bump.
Overall, I would say this is a solid first effort for Amazon in terms of delivering a controller that could be used to experience more than mobile games.
Remember that Amazon Game Studios has hired some serious talent, including Portal’s Kim Swift and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory lead Clint Hocking. Aside from that, Amazon also acquired Double Helix, the studio responsible for the reboot of Killer Instinct on the Xbox One. While Amazon’s game offering might be slim for now, don’t expect their games to remain rooted in mobile tradition.