What is Amazon Luna and why is it not on the Apple App Store?

25 Sep 2020

The Amazon Luna controller and TV. Image: Amazon

Amazon is the latest tech giant to launch a cloud gaming platform, but has raised eyebrows with how the service will be playable on iOS devices.

Although Amazon already has a foothold in the gaming ecosystem through Twitch, it is now following in the footsteps of Google and Microsoft by launching a cloud gaming offering – Luna. Instead of a console, the only hardware Luna will use is a controller that is linked with an Amazon Fire TV device, PC or Mac.

It is also available on iOS devices but, in an interesting twist, it will only be available through web apps rather than the Apple App Store. In order for the gaming service to work on iPhones and iPads, users need to download a web app from the Luna website and a shortcut icon will then appear on the device’s home screen.

The decision not to create a native app may raise eyebrows, given that Apple has recently come under the spotlight for the 30pc cut it takes on transactions made through apps from its App Store. Epic Games recently began a legal battle with Apple regarding App Store rules.

Luna will be temporarily exclusive to iOS on mobile devices as an Android launch for the game-streaming service won’t go live for a number of weeks.

Speaking with Engadget, Luna chief Marc Whitten said this temporary exclusivity isn’t related to news that Amazon can make sales on Prime Video through the App Store without having to pay the full 30pc commission.

Whitten and other Luna executives also said that the delayed Android launch isn’t related to Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service having an exclusive launch on Android devices. Microsoft said that its decision not to launch on iOS was because Apple “consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps”.

US only for now

Luna has launched in early access in the US only with an introductory price of $5.99 a month for access to the Luna+ subscription service. This will allow for streaming games on two different devices at a time and, at first, a resolution of up to 1080p at 60 frames per second. 4K gaming will follow at a later time.

It will initially feature games including Resident Evil 7, Control and Panzer Dragoon. Amazon also confirmed the future launch of a Ubisoft subscription for the publisher’s games including a selection of its back catalogue and major new releases. Luna will also be integrated with Amazon’s other major gaming service, Twitch.

Twitch viewers watching a streamer playing a game on Luna will be able to click a link and play that game as well if they’re a Luna subscriber.

In a statement following the launch of Luna, Whitten said: “We created Luna to make it easy to play great games on the devices customers already own and love.

“It’s day one for Luna – we are excited to work with gamers, streamers, and publishers like Ubisoft and Remedy Entertainment to build a great gaming experience for everyone.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic