Amazon's Android-based console wasn't launched in 2013 like rumors initially implied. Instead, it was launched today. The Amazon Fire TV is half Apple TV and half OUYA, mixing the media streaming-based capabilities of popular set-top boxes with the Android library of games available right now (currently partial). Here's the big deal though: it's Amazon. Their already huge cloud-based servers, already hard at work first-party game developers and already affordable hardware makes them an instant contender.
Let's go over each of those points one by one. Amazon's online infrastructure and partnerships is so large it's almost disgusting. Netflix, Youtube and Hulu Plus as well as any number of other applications currently available on the store like Twitch and Pandora are all there, right now. If the 8GB internal storage isn't enough, keep in mind that everything is connected to the user's Amazon account, so it's all accessible via Amazon's cloud.
Games? Bah, Android games, right? Sure, it's easy to discount the myriad of cruddy mobile games that even Amazon is touting like some great achievement. "The average price is $1.85," and it makes me want to never touch a single one of those games. Amazon's doing work though. They've got their own internal Amazon Game Studios working on a handful of titles, including their launch exclusive Sev Zero, a third-person tower defense game in the vein of Sanctum. Then they've got recent purchase Double Helix Games now making games for the platform. Oh, and did I mention Amazon just hired Kim Swift, designer of Portal, and Clint Hocking, designer of Far Cry 2? Amazon's taking gaming seriously. Or at least more seriously than any other cheap Android box.
Then there's the hardware. This box runs a quad-core Qualcomm Krait up to 1.7 Ghz, has 2GB of memory (the OUYA has 512MB), and it has its own GPU as well, a Qualcomm Adreno 320. That is to say, the Amazon Fire TV is the hot rod of Android gaming and set-top livestreaming. It puts the Apple TV, Roku and OUYA combined to shame. Add in some great additional functionality like voice-command searching and a first-party controller said to have 55-hours of battery life per two AA batteries and damn, yo. It supports 1080p and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Optical audio out. Ethernet port and WiFi. How much that thing cost?
The Amazon Fire TV costs $99 out of the box. It comes with a remote and batteries, a power cord and an instruction manual. Notably absent is an HDMI cable. The controller costs an additional $40 and for a limited time comes with Sev Zero, the console's first exclusive, and $10 in Amazon Coins to spend on other apps. Oh, and it's available right now. It might just make Android-based consoles worth investing in.