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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Decent number of games
Works well in browsers and Fire TV
Good build quality on the controller
Controller connects via Wi-Fi
Poor Android support
No 4K graphics
Intermittent network issues
Luna is a game streaming service from Amazon that functions like a Netflix for video games. It works great, and the price tag is affordable, but the game library is a little thin.
Our reviewer got into early access Amazon Luna so they could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.
Luna is a game streaming service from Amazon that’s designed to compete with similar offerings like Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate and Google Stadia. It’s subscription-based, with no need to purchase games, so it shares more in common with Game Pass Ultimate. The optional controller takes a cue from Stadia, with a Wi-Fi based connection that helps reduce latency. This could be the future of gaming, but with poor mobile support, a thin library, and no 4K graphics at launch, it isn’t there quite yet.
While Luna is still in beta, I was able to secure a subscription and controller and put the service to the test. I used it with my Fire TV Cube, Insignia Fire TV Edition, Chrome and Safari browsers, and even my Pixel 3 toward the end when Amazon added support for additional Android phones. During my time with the service, I tested things like latency and lag, overall playability, the performance and feel of the controller, and the depth and breadth of the streaming library.
Luna is an impressive service with what seems like solid underlying tech right out of the gate. The biggest questions seem to be how and when Amazon will go about filling holes in the library, how well the service will work when they eventually roll out 4K streaming, and whether we’ll see better Android support in the future.
Luna isn’t a traditional game console, so there isn’t much design to speak of in terms of hardware. The two important elements here are the Luna app, which operates as an Android app on Fire TV and a web app in Chrome and Safari, and the controller that’s technically optional.
The Luna app, both the Fire TV version and the web app version, is well-designed enough, without a whole lot to really stand out or impress. It functions as a basic interface to access all of the games that the service offers, including a Home screen that highlights games in various categories, a Library screen that lists every available game, and a Playlist page that provides easy access to games you have specifically chosen to place there.
The app is snappy and responsive in all of the forms I tested, allowing you to drill down to the game you want, launch it, and start playing with a minimum of time and effort. One touch that you may or may not appreciate is that individual game pages include links to current streams of that specific game on Amazon-owned Twitch. In addition to the standard slate of trailers and screenshots, these streams may help you decide whether or not you actually want to devote time to playing a game that you’re on the fence about.
The controller is similarly unassuming, and Amazon clearly isn’t trying to rock the boat there. It’s extremely similar in profile to an Xbox One controller, right down to the positioning of the offset analog sticks. This configuration has long been my favorite, with the Sony-style side-by-side analogs feeling cramped, so the Luna controller feels instinctually good in my hands. If you’re a fan of the Xbox One controller, you’ll likely feel the same. If you don’t like the Xbox-style design for whatever reason, then you may at least appreciate the fact that the build quality of the controller feels quite solid, and it’s very snappy and responsive in use.
In addition to the offset analog sticks, the Luna controller also features a fairly standard array of buttons. A somewhat mushy directional pad sits below the left analog stick, and four familiar face buttons sit above the right stick. The triggers are fairly shallow but feel responsive, and shoulder buttons are easily accessed without moving your fingers off the triggers. In addition to the standard array, the Luna controller also includes a microphone button to access Alexa.
Like the Stadia controller, the Luna controller supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The Bluetooth is used primarily while setting up the controller, although you can also use it to connect directly to your computer with the aid of a custom driver. The built-in Wi-Fi allows the controller to connect directly to the Luna servers, without using your computer as a middle-man. That’s the same trick Google Stadia uses to minimize lag when playing fast-paced games, and it works just as well here as it does there.
The Luna controller has quickly become one of my favorite alternatives to the Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S controller.
In terms of ports, the Luna controller includes a USB-C port for charging and connectivity and a 3.5mm port for plugging in your favorite set of headphones or earbuds. At the back, you’ll find a removable battery cover, as the controller is powered by two AA batteries.
Overall, the Luna controller has quickly become one of my favorite alternatives to the Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S controller; the only real issues being the mushy d-pad and the texture of the analog sticks. I ended up snapping on some performance thumb grips, which worked great.
Luna is just about as easy to use as a gaming service can be. To use Luna, there’s zero setup involved. If you’re playing on Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, you can just connect a compatible controller, navigate to the Luna website, and start playing. The Fire TV app is similarly easy to get up and running.
If you’re using the optional Luna controller, there is a bit of additional setup to work through. You can choose to have your controller automatically linked to your Amazon account when you buy it, which simplifies setup a bit, but it’s a fairly straightforward process either way.
If you do opt to link your controller to your Amazon account when you buy it, and you already own other Amazon devices like Alexa that are connected to your Wi-Fi connection, then you can take advantage of Amazon’s Wi-Fi simple setup that shaves some time off the setup process. Otherwise, you just use the Luna controller app on your Android or iPhone to hook the controller up to Wi-Fi.
After the initial setup process, your Luna controller is ready to go regardless of platform. Power on the controller, launch the Luna app or website, and everything automatically connects without any additional work or input.
I tested Luna with the optional Wi-Fi Luna controller and a wired Xbox Series X/S controller on my Windows laptop and with the Luna controller on my Fire TV Cube, M1 MacBook, Pixel 3 phone, and Fire TV Edition Insignia television. Each of these devices was connected to a 1GB cable internet connection from Mediacom via my Eero mesh 5GHz Wi-Fi network.
Luna offers an impressive streaming experience that’s on par with what I’ve seen from Google and Microsoft.
So while I don’t live anywhere near a metropolitan area, and there aren’t any Amazon servers anywhere near my physical location, it is important to note that I have a strong, fast internet connection, and my experience with Luna reflects that.
Luna offers an impressive streaming experience that’s on par with what I’ve seen from Google and Microsoft. Initial loading time is essentially nonexistent, and I experienced very little lag. The Wi-Fi controller reduces latency by about 17 to 30 milliseconds according to Amazon. But I actually found the service to be quite playable even with an Xbox Series X/S controller. If your internet connection is slower though, that 30-millisecond reduction could theoretically make a huge difference.
I played dozens of other games on the service, including the deceptively addictive Lumines, nostalgia bombs like Castlevania Collection and R-Type Dimensions, cute RPG Monster Boy, and a bunch of others, and they all played well.
The first game I loaded up on the service was Sonic Mania Plus, as it’s a pretty fast-paced game, and I felt like it would give me a good baseline of what to expect. Playing with the Luna controller, I found the controls to be snappy and responsive without a hint of lag. I know there physically has to be some amount of lag, but whatever latency is introduced by the travel time to and from Amazon’s servers was consistently small enough that I wasn’t able to perceive it.
I played dozens of other games on the service, including the deceptively addictive Lumines, nostalgia bombs like Castlevania Collection and R-Type Dimensions, cute RPG Monster Boy, and a bunch of others, and they all played well. I did experience brief hiccups from time to time, with Luna warning of ‘network issues’ despite my network and internet connection being rock-solid; that sort of intermittent problem is almost guaranteed just by the fickle nature of the internet itself.
While the intermittent so-called network issues could end up proving a massive headache in competitive online games, they were few enough, and far enough between, that my own gaming experience was still positive when taken as a whole.
If you have a slow internet connection or suffer from poor connectivity, then it’s likely that the brief issues I experienced could be amplified to an unacceptable point. If you have a decent connection, live closer to a major metropolitan area than I do, and have more than 10Mbps of downstream bandwidth available, the service should work just fine.
Luna’s biggest issue, and its biggest question mark going forward, is its streaming library. Amazon is taking a page from Microsoft’s book in that they’re trying to function as a Netflix of game streaming, but Amazon just doesn’t have the same deep library as Microsoft.
While Amazon did manage to cobble together a fairly impressive assortment of games for the initial launch, a lot of the best games on the platform are locked behind an add-on subscription to the Ubisoft+ channel. If you want to play games like Far Cry 5, Watch Dogs: Legion, or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, you’ll have to pony up for the additional subscription.
Amazon is taking a page from Microsoft’s book in that they’re trying to function as a Netflix of game streaming, but Amazon just doesn’t have the same deep library as Microsoft.
During the beta period, the basic Luna subscription gets you access to 70 games, with an additional two dozen games locked behind the Ubisoft+ subscription. The 70 games included with the basic subscription offer a ton of entertainment value, but most genres are woefully underrepresented, and others are missing altogether. For example, fans of fighting games won’t find anything to rally behind here.
For some reason, the fighting category is populated by titles like the rogue-like shooter Everspace and the co-op brawler River City Girls. No actual fighting games, though. The horror category was empty until Amazon scored Resident Evil 7 Gold Edition and also saddled gorefest pixel art platformer Valfaris with the horror tag.
It’s clear that Amazon is working to bring a nice mix of games to the service, but the depth and breadth of the titles you can access with a basic subscription remain the biggest question as Luna moves through beta and toward general launch.
Luna comes with a price tag of $4.95 per month during the beta period, with the insinuation that it will increase later on. It’s uncertain as to whether or not the price will actually go up, but right now it’s a pretty good deal. The only real caveat is that the attractive price tag is balanced by a somewhat thin library. Go ahead and check the library before you sign up. If you see more than a handful of games you’re interested in, then Luna is absolutely worth the price of admission.
The Luna controller has a heftier price tag of $50, but that’s actually pretty reasonable if you compare it to other wireless controllers. It’s cheaper than a lot of the other options, and you can use it via Wi-Fi with Luna, or via Bluetooth or USB-C to play non-Luna games on your PC. All in all, it’s a good controller that’s priced competitively.
Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate, which includes the xCloud streaming service, is the closest analog to Luna. They’re both monthly subscription services, and they both use a Netflix model where you can stream whatever you want, however much you want, whenever you want, without needing to actually buy the games.
In terms of price, Luna has the advantage over Game Pass Ultimate. Luna only costs $4.95 per month during the beta period, while Game Pass Ultimate costs $15 per month. Luna also lets you play in more locations, with support for Windows, macOS, iOS, and some Android phones via web browser and Fire TV via app. Game Pass only lets you stream via Android phones and tablets, although they will likely support more platforms in the future.
In terms of games, Game Pass has the edge. You get access to over 100 games, compared to 75 in the base Luna subscription. You can also download and play the games on your PC or Xbox console with Game Pass, and all Xbox Game Studio games are added to the service the same day they are released.
If you’re a PC gamer or own an Xbox, Game Pass Ultimate is a pretty great deal. Luna is far more affordable though, making it the better choice if you don’t own a gaming rig.
A solid game streaming service.
Amazon Luna is an impressive game streaming service that works surprisingly well whether or not you buy the optional controller. It isn’t perfect, and you’re likely to experience hiccups here and there, but it’s an extremely affordable way to experience dozens of games, many of which would otherwise require an expensive gaming PC or console, without any kind of initial investment. The future of the service remains uncertain, and the precedent of locking Ubisoft games behind an expensive additional paywall isn’t a great sign, but Amazon has a chance to make a real splash in the gaming world with Luna.
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