Couch games: $39.99 Amazon Fire Game Controller aims to win over the home crowd (hands-on)
Amazon has sold you on books, TV shows, and tablet apps. Now it's hoping to move into TV-connected gaming, too.
We've seen solutions like the Roku 3 and Ouya attempt to extend the world of mobile gaming onto TV screens, and Apple TV has dabbled in it too, via AirPlay. Add to those Amazon's game controller for its streaming Fire TV box, previously rumored and now very real. It doesn't look all that exciting -- in fact, it looks like a budget PC or Xbox game controller, with a few extra buttons. But it costs only $39.99, less than most console or tablet gaming accessories and will work with thousands of upcoming games -- including Minecraft. I've been playing around with one along with the Fire TV, and so far it performs...well, about as well as you'd expect a generic Bluetooth console controller to perform.
Amazon's Fire controller isn't necessary to play games on Fire TV -- you can pair other Bluetooth game controllers too, like the Moga Pro and Nyko Playpad Pro -- but Amazon's comes with 1,000 Amazon Coins for purchasing games, which amounts to about $10. And, its specific button layout has shortcuts tailored for the Fire TV, along with media-playback buttons.
Amazon's New York event demonstrated some of the gaming capabilities of Fire TV, and after using Fire TV and gaming on it a little bit at CNET's office, I'd call the experience similar to what you get with a Bluetooth controller on iOS or Android. The game offerings are very phone and tablet-like, and range from simplistic to potentially very fun. Some games paired well, like . Minecraft could be the AAA killer app, but the mobile edition here isn't quite the same as the PC version. Sev Zero, a first-person shooter that Amazon Game Studios has developed and comes free on Fire TV, uses the twin-stick controls well but feels like a generic shooter. There's no rumble here, just a standard set of analog sticks, d-pad, and both shoulder and trigger buttons on the left and right sides. You can use the controller to navigate the Fire TV menus, too.
Again, you need a Fire TV to use the controller, which costs $99, so the total cost of your Amazon TV game experience is really $140. But for a full-fledged streaming device with an big bunch of affordable games, that may not be such a bad deal at all.