When Amazon released the Amazon Fire TV streaming video set-top box, they added a twist by including Android gaming with an optional $40 Fire Game Controller. Can the Fire TV compete with the big gaming consoles like the Xbox or Playstation? In a word, no! But the Fire TV is still good enough for those who don’t want to, or can’t afford to, pay hundreds of dollars for a game system. Fire TV owners get some nice entertainment options and most gamers will enjoy the variety and even quality of games thanks to hardware comparable to a high-end Android phone or tablet, but with a dedicated game controller.
Amazon Fire TV With Decent Gaming Specs
The Amazon Fire TV works better for gaming than other mini set-top video streaming boxes. Amazon included some decent processing power thanks to a Qualcomm Krait 300 quad-core 1.7 Ghz processor and the Qualcomm Adreno 320 graphics processor. Which means the Fire TV comes with plenty of power to run the operating system and the games. These processors put the Fire TV in line with high-end cell phones and tablets, which many mobile gamers use to play games. This way the gamer also can enjoy a dedicated game controller. Someone can buy a Gameloft Duo Gamer for the iPad or similar devices for iOS or Android, but these usually only work with a select few supported games. All of the games compatible with the Fire TV will work with Amazon’s controller.
Amazon Fire Game Controller
The Amazon Fire TV game controller looks like an Xbox or Playstation controller with dual analog joysticks, up/down/left/right directional pad and four action buttons in the standard diamond shape. Towards the front of the controller we get play/pause, fast forward and rewind to control video. On the back there are four trigger buttons, two on each side. In the middle, the Fire Game Controller includes basic Fire TV remote control buttons, including back, home and menu buttons.
There’s a button in the middle of the controller below the row of remote control buttons (see above). Press it to launch Amazon Game Circle. Game Circle pauses the game and shows achievements, game progress and leader boards. This offers gamers something like Apple’s Game Center where players can interact with one another.
Xbox and Playstation owners won’t envy Amazon Fire Game Controller owners, but the controller works well and feels comfortable while playing games. It’s also better than using the small Roku remote to play casual games. The Fire Game Controller allows gamers to play more hardcore games, like the surprisingly fun Sev Zero game that combines a first person shooter with a tower defense game in a futuristic Halo-like environment.
Some Bluetooth controllers don’t respond in games instantly, but the Fire Game Controller does. However, it feels a little flimsy. We hope it holds up to an intense frag session. We’d grade it a C in terms of quality and value. At $40 we thought it would offer more solid construction.
At launch Amazon touted over 160 games. They took many of the games in their Amazon App Store for use on the Kindle Fire and ported them to the Fire TV for play with game controller.
We played the Sev Zero ($6.99, but free for Fire TV buyers) game that Amazon showed off at their announcement event. It’s a fun game. Players must defend their station from invading monsters. Place defensive weapons in the right places to kill the bad guys and warp into the station to fight them off yourself.
As an avid tower defense gamer, I enjoyed getting to actively kill the bad guys instead of passively watching my placed guns kill them. As someone who’s terrible at first person shooters sing a game controller instead of a mouse and keyboard, I liked that the guns placed at strategic points also helped me kill the invaders.
Sev Zero comes from the new Amazon Game Studio, which we hope will produce and release more games of similar quality. Amazon hired developers from the studios that produce games for the bigger consoles and it shows.
Owners of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX can use the tablet’s “air support” for the game. The unique two-person gaming method puts the person using the controller in the game as the first person shooter. The one holding the tablet will collect resources, fire at the invaders and work with the other player to defend the outpost. This makes Sev Zero something different than the typical multi-user game.
Most games cost between Free and $5, but a few cost a little more. Amazon said that apps will cost lest than $2 on average.
Price of the Hardware and Games
No one claims the Amazon Fire TV with the Fire Controller and Android games competes with Xbox One or Playstation 4 quality. However, those consoles can’t compete with the Fire TV’s lower price.
People who only want a simple gaming box should take a serious look at the OUYA or OnLive. Neither of these miniature set-top box gaming consoles found success, but they do give users a fun gaming experience cheaper than the big consoles. They don’t offer the same selection of movies, TV shows or apps Amazon does. That’s why we still suggest the Fire TV for gamers over these two dedicated gaming devices.
No one who already owns an Xbox, Playstation, OUYA or OnLive system should switch. Parents who want to treat their kids to a fun gaming system for the living room or den at a third the price should give the Amazon Fire TV a look. The dedicated game controller works better than an iPhone or iPad to control games on an Apple TV and far better than using the Roku remote to play Flappy Birds. The Fire TV hardware runs faster than the other set-top boxes and Amazon’s ecosystem of media and apps make it an attractive system for casual and budget minded gamers.