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Amazon doubling down on gaming with new Fire TV, developing PC title

About a year and a half after debuting Fire TV, a set-top-box designed for games and streaming video, Amazon this week announced a new Fire TV and set of bundles including one specifically designed for gaming.

The Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition is a more powerful box that includes more memory, a redesigned controller and two games.

An Amazon spokesperson tells Polygon that this latest range of devices, due out early next month, are just the product of the company's continuing innovation on Amazon Devices.

"Fire TV already had industry-leading performance, and we're just improving on that by adding 75 percent more processing power, a faster GPU, lower latency in the Fire TV Voice Remote, more battery life for both the Fire TV Game Controller and the Fire TV Voice Remote, plus Alexa and 4K Ultra HD on Fire TV," the spokesperson said in an email to Polygon. "Gaming on Fire TV has been a customer favorite since launch, so we're doubling down on gaming by offering the Fire TV Gaming Edition."

The biggest change that comes with the gaming edition of the device is the overhauled game controller. The original controller was poorly received, but Amazon says they redesigned the new one based on that customer feedback.

The new controller has a more ergonomic design of its controls and buttons, an audio jack for Dolby-enhanced private listening, and instant voice search with a built-in microphone for easy voice search and access to Alexa. The controller also has much longer battery life, with Amazon saying it will get 90 hours of life out of a set of batteries if its used without headphones.

"We've always been invested in making gaming great and affordable on Fire TV, and this is just one more step in our mission to accomplish that," the spokesperson said.

The news comes as Amazon's own internal game studio quietly continues work on at least one unannounced game for the PC.

A job listing on Gamasutra said that Amazon was hiring for "an ambitious new PC game project using the latest technology."

The listing also noted the line-up of high-profile, experienced PC game developers already on the team. The devs, according to the post, have worked on World of WarcraftBioShockHalf-Life 2Left 4 DeadDota 2HaloInfamousMiddle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and The Last of Us.

"We believe that games have just scratched the surface in their power to unite players and will produce some of the future's most influential voices in media and art," according to the June job listing. It mentions using the Amazon-owned game streaming service Twitch, Amazon's cloud and other innovations to "radically evolve gameplay."

Amazon today declined to detail what specifically the internal game studio is working on, but did acknowledge that work includes a PC title.

"We believe in ground-breaking games that can redefine the boundaries of player experience and change the way the world sees digital entertainment," the spokesperson said. "In addition to building mobile games, we are building PC games as well."

Back when the original Fire TV was announced, Mike Frazzini, who is the vice president of Amazon Games, said at the time that the device was born out of a desire to fill a gap in the gaming market. The idea was to create a device that would play games, but also be used as for a variety of activities, sort of like how people use their smartphones.

While the company is being officially quiet about what they have in store for gaming, the job page for Amazon Games included this:

"Amazon is all in on games. We believe the evolution that began with arcade communities a quarter at a time, growing to the live streams and eSports of today, will continue to a future in which fans are creators, players are celebrities, and games are a global cultural touchstone that cuts across age, gender and nationality

"Games have the power to connect communities at a massive scale, and will continue to produce some of the world's most influential voices in media and art. Twitch, Amazon Web Services, digital and physical media publishing... imagine being able to invent within this sandbox of Amazon assets to create awe-inspiring games for players, broadcasters and viewers; and game technology for developers. That's what we are doing."

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