While Google may have given up on the streaming space, it’s very clear that Microsoft and newcomer Amazon have not. Amazon launched the Luna in March of 2022 in the United States, with Canada, the UK, and Germany’s launch coming in March of 2023. The idea was simple — bring some of the best games on the market to folks who can’t afford a high end PC or games console in a package that was easy to use and affordable. I wanted to check in on the Luna and see how it’s doing, and whether it makes sense to subscribe to Amazon’s game streaming service in 2023.
First and foremost, this is easily the simplest device for streaming on the market. There is no dongle to plug in, you don’t have to have a specific set top box (e.g. a FireTV, Stadia dongle, or NVIDIA Shield), and there are no wires to fiddle with to get rolling. Opening the box you’ll find a gun metal blue and black controller with purple accents that is outwardly indistinguishable from an Xbox One controller, minus the Luna logo in the center. Picking it up revealed some slight tweaks, but let’s get through setup first, shall we?
Downloading the Luna App on my phone I was prompted to add a controller. Holding down the Luna button for three seconds did precisely that, immediately connecting to my phone. It grabbed the latest firmware and grabbed my already-attached Amazon account since that app is already on my phone as well. In the background it had also nabbed my wifi settings and pulled them in as well. If you want simple, there is no beating this – it’s about as hands-off as you could imagine, and then some.
The first notice you’ll receive is that you are ready to “play games with Cloud Direct”. All this means is that the device is ready to go, able to connect to remote servers and play games. Since nothing is downloaded to the controller, that’s precisely how this works – as a remote control device to a server somewhere in the cloud, utilizing the processing and graphical power of that virtual machine.
I’m an Amazon Prime member, so all I had to do at this point was navigate to the Amazon Luna page. Clicking “Play now with Prime” showed me that I had a few games that would be included, specifically Fortnite, Batman Arkham Knight, Citizen Sleeper, Monster Harvest, and Steamworld Heist. Certainly that can’t be all of them, right? Well, it turns out that it isn’t. A helpful button offered to launch the full app experience, so I did exactly that.
Now we’re talking! I had immediate access to Alien Isolation, Aragami, Beyond Good and Evil, Chorus, The Castlevania Collection, Control, Devil May Cry , Everspace, Guacamelee 1 and 2, Overcooked 1 and 2, Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, several Shantae games, Valkyria Chronicles 4, Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2, and many more. A quick connection to my Ubisoft account in the settings bumped that up, adding my entire library from that store into this one. I could now fire up Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and pick up exactly where I left off on my PC or console without transferring save files. It was time to test that theory.
Loading into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for the first time took 4 minutes and 17 seconds, but that was the end of the loading, given the open world. The game was running at 1080p and 30fps, but surprisingly I was able to go into the options and make adjustments. It also revealed a bit of a behind-the-scenes on the hardware.
This game was running on a Windows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition 64 bit OS with an Intel Xeon Platinum 8259CL CPU running at 2.5 GHz and supported by an NVIDIA Tesla T4. The Tesla T4 is a high-performance GPU launched in September of 2018. It sports 16GB of GDDR6 RAM with a throughput of roughly 320 GBps, and 2560 CUDA cores. This puts it in line with the RTX 3050, albeit with double the memory.
Knowing what that card can handle, I cranked the resolution up to 4K and left the Graphics Quality setting at Ultra High. I also told the game to cap the framerate at 60, but in practice I mostly landed around the 40 range for the most part. Funny enough, though, the resolution didn’t change that I could see or measure. The Luna caps out at 1080p to ensure a smooth experience, though a 720p option is also available.
The Luna’s controller runs over WiFi to control lag, and I saw the results here. Hardly a high-speed twitch game, but still one that requires timing, Valhalla’s controls felt responsive enough to do the job. On to something a little faster, shall we?
Firing up R-Type Dimensions EX took just 30 seconds, and quickly reminded me how terrible I am at SHMUPS in a big fat hurry. With no input lag whatsoever, the only reasons I died, often, was due to my own ineptitude. Test passed, onto the next!
Batman: Arkham Knight requires some pretty precise timing, so I figured it’d put the Luna to the test. After just one minute and 40 seconds of load time I was at the main menu. Once I settled into the the groove of punching bad guys, I could see how easy it’d be to forget you weren’t playing on a console. The game looked fantastic, without any of the soft edges or blurriness I saw in Valhalla – a shock, given how poor the PC port was at launch.
No matter what game I threw at the Luna, it handled each one with relative ease. Some games take longer to spin up than others, and most of the time the graphic options are walled off or simply missing from the menus. In practice, the differences I spotted were minimal at best, so this is an example of what you see is what you get.
Funny enough, you don’t actually even need the Luna controller to play Luna games. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can use your connected Bluetooth or wired controller to connect to the Luna app (or via a browser) to play the games I just mentioned. With FireTV, for example, there’s a native app, making it even easier to connect and play.
If you are interested in gaming on the go, that’s where Luna really shines. With an optional mobile phone clip you can use your phone as your screen. You can reverse that as well, using your phone as both screen and controller and connecting to the streaming service without the need for any extra hardware. You can also use your phone for voice chat, which is handy if you want to play something multiplayer. I personally hate using touchscreens, but I did appreciate the clip. It does add a little bit of bulk, but not enough to where it became uncomfortable. It’s also a good opportunity to make use of that 720p setting as you’ll be sitting at a distance that wouldn’t benefit much from a higher resolution.
Beyond the library of games I mentioned, you can subscribe to various channels to pick up some additional titles. A Jackbox Games subscription will add another $4.99 to your bill per month, but will give you instant access to that entire series – handy if you have a flash mob party and want to entertain a bunch of folks quickly. As I mentioned, you can link your Ubisoft account, which will import any games you own, or if you have Ubisoft+, all of the games in that catalog. Linking my Epic account didn’t seem to access anything, so I’m not sure what value that’s adding to the mix. You can also link in Twitch for broadcasting your games, if that’s your jam. As I mentioned, as an Amazon Prime member I had access to a bunch of games right out of the gate. If you are not a Prime member, you can get those same games for $9.99 a month.
I mentioned I’d circle back to the controller, and I’m here to do exactly that. While it resembles an Xbox One controller, it feels a touch more refined. The WiFi connectivity removed any expected latency from the equation, and the rear textured grips kept it in my hand for even the fastest fighters and speediest racers. The triggers have a slightly more pronounced curve and are a bit more firm than the rather loose Xbox controllers – something I appreciated immediately. Overall, Amazon has turned in a solid controller that’ll do the job nicely.
At the end of the day, the Amazon Luna really only has one serious drawback – new games. You are at the mercy of the software service to rotate in games as they see fit. The only games you can purchase directly are from the Ubisoft store, which will automatically import it into your library on Luna. In this way, it feels like the Luna is still in its early access stages. What’s here works and works well, but frankly it’s more serving the role of something you could take with you on a trip than a primary gaming machine.
Perhaps 2023 will bring new innovations for Amazon’s little gaming box, and frankly I’m all for it. While I can’t necessarily answer the “is it worth it in 2023” question as that’s ultimately dependent on the whims of the game rotation, but if you are a bit behind and still want to game, it’s hard to go wrong here. And besides – competition for Microsoft and NVIDIA is always a good thing – it keeps the marketplace honest, and it keeps us all gaming.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).