Amazon Luna Review – 2023

A lot has changed with Amazon Luna over the past 6 months. The service has probably changed more than any other cloud gaming service on the market. Some of the changes have been for the better and others for the worse. So, we thought it was a good time to update with our Amazon Luna Review for Summer 2023.

If you are at all interested in the idea of streaming video games, it’s good to know about Amazon Luna. If you live in the United States, Canada, The United Kingdom or Germany, Luna is an accessible, great performing, and cheap way to see if game streaming is right for you. It’s a great service to start with even if it is not your final destination in the cloud gaming space. If you live outside of those countries, you’re basically out of luck-for now. However, the service did just expand to those 3 countries outside of the United States. So, it is possible another future expansion is in the cards.

That’s our Amazon Luna review in a nutshell. If you want more, read on.

Luna+ Library on the Web. Amazon Luna Review.
Amazon Luna+ Library on the Web

Free to Try With a Prime Membership

Luna’s pricing is perhaps its biggest and most competitive innovation. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, Luna will let you play from a small (typically four games per month), rotating selection of games every month at no additional charge. It’s an easy, no-brainer way to try the service out and see if your internet connection holds up to the demands of streaming games. With Luna’s abilities to use both Xbox and PlayStation controllers, there’s a good chance you already have what you need to get started. If not, you can order a Luna controller directly from Amazon. I can’t think of a gaming service that has made getting started easier – since the end of Stadia’s click-to-play trials, at least.

This year, Amazon has taken this Prime membership perk to the next level. Anyone with a Prime membership can now play Fortnite and any games they own on Ubisoft Connect on Luna for free! Essentially, Amazon is letting you rent time on their GPU powered cloud servers for free! This is something they’d typically charge on the order of a $1 an hour for on AWS.

Amazon Luna Channels

For gamers who are more committed to the idea of streaming, Luna offers “channels” which are a grab-bag selection of games from various genres. At one point in time, there were 5 channels including a Retro channel and Family channel. These channels were closed in late 2022. Most of their games have now left the service, with what is remaining being moved to Luna’s main channel: the Luna+ channel.

The Luna+ channel once held around 175 games, but it has since dropped to near 100 titles. These titles cover all genres of games. They include retro, indie, AA and even a few AAA games.

Amazon also has an Ubisoft+ channel that gives you access to nearly 50 currently and former Ubisoft hits. The other remaining channel is the Jackbox channel that gives you access to about 10 Jackbox games.

Yooka-Laylee Game Capture

Amazon has clearly done some curation with its collection, there’s very little room for trash. Scrolling through every channel on Luna, I found the vast majority of titles were games that I recognized and heard favorable things about.

Getting Access to Everything is Pricey

We should mention, though, that attempting to subscribe to all channels can get expensive quickly. Some users may also feel like they are being overcharged for all the separate channels if they truly want it all. Here are the channel costs:

  • Luna+ – $9.99
  • Jackbox Games Channel – $4.99
  • Ubisoft+ Channel – $17.99 (also gives access to games on PC)

All together, you could be paying as much as $33 a month to access all the channels. That’s a lot when you compare it to Sony’s PlayStation Premium Plus plan or Xbox Game Pass, which also happen to include a lot of Ubisoft titles.

The Transient Nature of Luna+

The channel we would recommend to most “gamers” reading this Amazon Luna review is the Luna+ channel, which has a wide variety of “gamer” games from all genres. There are some outstanding titles like Dirt 5 (racing), Devil May Cry 5 (action) and Control (action, adventure) make up a few of these titles. This is also the channel with the most “bang” for the buck. Over 100 titles feature here, and again, a lot of them are great games. Very few duds in here. As mentioned above, this channel will cost you $9.99 a month.

So, Luna+ has a solid library, and they’ve set a strong precedent for only committing to titles that their customers are actually going to enjoy. So far, so good. The rub that I have with Luna, however, is the uncertainty in how long I’m going to have to play these games. Every subscription service (movies or games) has titles that come in and out. For a service like Netflix, that can be fine. If I lose the show I’m in the middle of watching, I can buy it later and pick up exactly where I left off. With Luna, if I’m 50 hours into my RPG and then it suddenly leaves the service, there’s a chance I may be losing that title – and my progress – forever.

Luna Game Leaving Notice - An Important Consideration in the Amazon Luna Review

Video games aren’t like movies. I can’t play any game on any console. Devil May Cry 5, for example, isn’t available on Mac or Nintendo Switch. And even if the game is available on another system you own, there’s no guarantee your save data will transfer. When a game leaves Luna (and not before) Amazon does, in most cases, allow you to export saves. However, these need to be compatible on the platform you’re transferring it to (which based on my experience, it may as well not even be offered). This transient nature of the service will cause you to wonder before even starting a game for the first time: “am I ready to risk investing my time and potentially losing access to this game?”

Lots and Lots of Games Have Been Leaving

Unfortunately, this isn’t just an academic question. Well over 100 games have left Luna in just the past 6-7 months, some with as little as a few days notice.

This is just like Game Pass you say? While Xbox Game Pass does offer a similar rotate in and out model, at least when a game rotates out, it isn’t gone from the entire Xbox ecosystem! That is a major difference!

This isn’t all bad. Titles like “Ys VIII” and “Yakuza Kiwami 2” can take nearly a hundred hours to finish the game completely, but many of the titles on the service can be “beaten” in less than twenty hours. If you’re simply interested in playing a game to see what’s there, finish the story and then peace-out, Luna might actually be perfect for you. But if you’re the kind of gamer that likes to soak in the ambience, take their time, collect all the widgets, and start over in new-game-plus mode, Luna is going to drive you crazy.

A Lack of Basic Platform Features

Let’s continue with this Amazon Luna review. One major issue is that Luna has no trophy support, so aside from in-game compendiums, there’s no easy way to tell how much progress you’ve made in your games. There are also barely any online multiplayer games. You’ve got no friends lists on Luna; so the ability to invite friends to play games via proper platform-integrated multiplayer is out of the question. Some games like Dirt 5 have online functionality on other consoles, but on Luna that function has been completely removed from the game.

Luna’s decision to not include more multiplayer games even nearly three years into its life limits it both in its appeal and its value. It should be noted that Ubisoft games available on the service do include multiplayer (through Ubisoft Connect, not any kind of Amazon support). And Fortnite supports multiplayer through Epic store integration. But if you’re not into Rainbow Six or Fortnite, there’s not much else to see here.

Amazon Luna Yooka-Laylee Game Page

In essence, the Luna+ side of Luna is a gaming subscription for gamers who like to play short, single player games and don’t really care about achievements or the social aspects of gaming. When I recognize that, I see the subscription is actually a pretty narrowly focused, niche game service being hosted by the most democratic tech company in history.

Amazon has made online shopping, books, music, and movies perhaps more accessible and affordable than any company in history. That same democratic spirit is technically true for Luna… anyone can play it (in certain countries). But, not everyone is going to want to. While the selection of games here is pretty decent, most of the people that would want to play these games would want to know that they can access these games again in the future and track their achievements. But they likely won’t be able to.

Modern Game Rentals

Thus, Luna+ is really a fancy, glorified, online Blockbuster, where playing a game for the weekend and never touching it again is the main style of consumption. That can work fine for movies, where the value in a cinematic experience is determined by how much story can be fit into a limited time-frame. Video games, though, are much different, where the length of a game often increases its value. In the 80’s and 90’s, it was advantageous to rent video games, because progress couldn’t be saved and the cost of ownership was much more prohibitive. In the year 2023, games are cheaper than ever (relatively speaking), and the time investment often costs more than the game itself.

Luna Game Capture

Amazon Luna Cloud Features

Next up in this Amazon Luna review, let’s talk about cloud features. Both Luna and Twitch are owned by Amazon, so an integrated ecosystem would make good business sense. In this way, Luna does work with Twitch very cleverly. It makes streaming possible natively through the service (straight from one cloud service to the other), even using your own devices webcam to create a picture-in-picture view of yourself laid out over the game you’re playing-like you would expect to see on Twitch.

That this can be done natively without lag is quite a feat and the Luna team deserves some credit here. Twitch integration works, and it works beautifully. They also added live Twitch streams to the bottom of a game’s page. So if I’m interested in trying a game, I can see people playing it live to get an idea of the gameplay before I jump in. It’s a thoughtful inclusion and I hope they take the twitch integration even further. What we are seeing today is very promising.

Luna Game Capture

Luna Couch

Another promising feature is Luna Couch, which lets a second player jump into your game without an Amazon account or even having the app downloaded. I tested this by playing Tetris with my friend who lived in Tennessee (I’m in Texas) and it worked beautifully. It really was quite seamless. That I can get my friend to play a game that he doesn’t own just by sending him a link is one of the most pro-consumer features I have seen in video games in years. Right now it’s limited to 2 players, but I would like for Amazon to take this further and include up to 4 players. It would be a great way to get families involved with games over long distance and would really set the service apart.

Unfortunately, this “virtual couch” experience also doesn’t really make up for the lack of basic-mulitplayer on the service as we discussed above. Most gamers want to play with their friends using a properly integrated friends-list and platform-multiplayer experience and their own local view of the game (e.g. a first person perspective in a shooter) – not sharing a split screen view of someone else’s remote screen, where only that other account gets credit for any game progress.

I.e. Luna Couch would be a nice addition on top of a basic multiplayer experience. But, the lack of the latter in Luna after nearly three years is glaring.

Amazon Luna Review Conclusions

It’s time to conclude this Amazon Luna Review. Like the cloud gaming services that have come before it, Luna is stuffed with some really great ideas. It has proved itself as a concept and technology. But as it stands in 2023, it’s still nowhere close to competing with other major gaming platforms. Even as confident as I am in a company like Amazon supporting their gaming initiatives, Luna still feels like a short term solution to the long term investment of cloud gaming.

In addition, a transient library, a lack of long term save solutions and a lack of any long-term account record keeping like trophies or friends list, says to us that Amazon wants to show up at the Gaming Party but also wants to keep the car running.

We think Amazon Luna could be in the midst of a transition away from its own subscription channels (Family, Retro, Luna+) to an emphasis on providing value to Amazon Prime members via the ability to play free titles like Fortnite and games they own on other PC stores like Ubisoft Connect. In this way, Luna could become a competitor to NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW and Boosteroid. Ultimately, we think this is where Luna is currently shining the most.

There is no real downside in using Luna for free to play Fortnite, games you already own on PC and to check out the free Prime channel games every month.


Advertisement

Leave a Reply