Saturday, April 29, 2023

Oh, Come On! There Must Be Something You Like...

After last month, when I added Prime Gaming to the blog roll, I thought I'd written my last Amazon Prime roundup. Then I saw the line-up for May and found I had a few things to say about it, so here we are again. I'm not going to go through the whole list, just the highlights, but if you want the full skinny it's on the official blog or you can see a rundown in brief in the video below.

I found the comment thread following that video on YouTube revealing, although obviously it's in no way representative. Still, you can always read the temperature of the room from these things. I scrolled to the end of the thread and apart from a couple of brief nods towards a couple of the titles, all I saw were complaints about the quality of the games on offer:

"Prime give us some good old AA games"

"What I don't like about Prime Gaming is not that much about "how big the game is". I mean, it's ok for me if I don't get any AAA game. But almost every game included in Prime is really bad, like games that no one would buy them."

"what games are these Prime oh my god too weak games where are those breathtaking games because if it continues like this it will no longer be an advantage to renew the annual plan I expected more I see it's bad"

"Awful , just awful. What happened to you prime gaming ? Last year You're gibing away AAA games and this year its either old games or indie games. Atleast give some old AAA games that ppl enjoy. Another bad month with not a single good game."

Nice to see the level of literacy on YT as high as usual but we get the general idea.

There were also a couple of direct comparisons with Epic Games:

"...nothing worth it. Meanwhile Epic Games on a roll giving better and better games every week"

"Epic games gives better games than these and that too for free"
And there were the usual threats to quit:
"Time to leave Prime"

"Will not renew this month. Hope next month."

" ...will end my Prime subscription right now"

Some of this is misguided or plain ignorant. The trailer for Lake on YouTube, for example, has 2.6m views, suggesting a certain pre-existing popularity. Much of the discontent, however, is founded in reality - of a sort. 

There is an argument to be made that the games we've been getting from Prime this year are less prestigious and of lower authority than in previous years. I highly doubt, however, that it's because Amazon is "having a hard time" as one commenter, almost certainly ironically, suggests. 

I suspect it probably has more to do with a change of emphasis somewhere in the vast, labyrinthine structure of the megacorp although benign neglect is always a possibility. If Amazon has any genuine interest in gaming, it's probably directed at their own games and publishing deals.  

It's long been difficult to align "Amazon Games" with "Prime Gaming". They seem to have little or nothing to do with each other. Maybe the company's current gaming focus is simply elsewhere.

And why wouldn't it be? To compare Prime Gaming with Epic is misleading at best. Epic is mostly a games company. Amazon is mostly not. Moreover, even within Amazon's remit, Prime Gaming is at best an Add-On to an Add-On.

The comments made me wonder about the insularity and tunnel-vision of the commenters and by implication of the wider gaming community. Are there really people who pay their Prime subscription solely - or even mostly - for the free games? It's hard to believe but I guess it's possible.

I took out my Prime subscription years ago for the specific reason I imagine most people did at that time: free, fast shipping. I looked at how much it was costing me to have things sent to my house and how long it was taking for them to get there and  calculated that I'd save money and get stuff faster by paying the sub. I didn't at the time even realize there were other benefits attached and back then I'm not sure there were many.

Over the years since I began subbing Amazon Prime, the service has grown to include a raft of features, some of which, like Prime Video, I use literally every day, while others, like Amazon Music or Reading, I use only very occasionally.  

Gaming falls somewhere in the middle. Every month I claim a few games and some months I even play one of them. The main reason I even know about Prime Gaming it is because I used to claim the free games from Twitch before Amazon bought them and rebadged the service. That pretty much sums up how important Prime Gaming has to be to the overall Amazon Prime offer - it's a thing that came bundled with a thing they bought for other reasons and this is where they put it so they wouldn't keep falling over it in the hallway.

Or that's how it's always felt. Amazon doesn't care about Prime Gaming per se; it's just a bullet point on a list. Look how far you have to scroll down that list of reasons to subscribe. It comes almost at the end, just before Amazon Photos (A thing I didn't know even existed.)

As a Prime subscriber who also games, I appreciate Prime Gaming. It adds value to the offer for me. But if Amazon announced tomorrow they were closing it down it wouldn't for a moment make me consider cancelling my subscription. If I wanted to pay a sub specifically for access to new games every month, Prime is not where I'd be spending my money.

So, even if I was disappointed with the current tranche of free games that come with my Prime sub, I wouldn't start mouthing off about it on social media. And anyway I'm not disappointed. There's something every month that gets me a least a little excited and May's no exception. 

The games in this month's offer that I'll be claiming are

  • Lake
  • Planescape:Torment (Enhanced Edition)
  • Agatha Knife.

I might also take The Also Gone, although it looks a bit... depressing.

Lake is a game I reviewed in demo form a couple of years ago. It's been on my wishlist ever since but even with discounts I've been too mean to buy it. Well, now I don't have to! That's about a month's sub right there.

Planescape:Torment is a game I already own, at least technically. I have it on DVD - or possibly CD, it was that long ago - in a box on a shelf somewhere. I'm sure I don't need to describe it. It has a ferociously high reputation as an all-time classic but I could never get into it at all. I tried but not only did I dislike the premise, I found it... boring. Really dull. Too much text and none of it engaging.  Still, I've always felt I ought to at least give it another chance. Now, maybe, I will.

Agatha Knife is new to me but it looks right up my dingy, dark, alley. The Steam page describes it as "a whimsically twisted adventure" in which the eponymous Agatha is "torn between her love for eating meat and her friendships with animals". Well, aren't we all? Okay, not me. I haven't eaten meat since the 1980s and I didn't much like it then but the same applies to plants. You know they scream when you cut them, right?

Well, that ended on a cheerful note. Oh, well. Time I was mowing the lawn anyway.


  1. Planescape: Torment is one of those games that turns the notion of good versus evil on its head. Not in the same way that suddenly evil is good and vice versa, but that extremes are bad. So, placing that concept into a game under the guise of Dungeons and Dragons was kind of a surprise; we're so used to the Good vs. Evil trope out of Fantasy as a genre --or when someone is being clever, Law vs Chaos in a Moorcockian way-- so basically saying all extremes are bad in a Zen fashion stands out. (Oh, and the main character being incapable of dying is another unique trait of the game.)

    Of course, nowadays with the proliferation of games that embrace Zen and other Eastern religions' tenets, this isn't so radical. That doesn't detract from the game from a historical fashion, however.

    1. It's been so long now, I can't really remember why I took against the game so strongly. I just remember I really didn't like it and there was far too much text in long, stodgy, tedious paragraphs. It has such a stellar reputation, though, I'm pretty sure I must just not have been in the right frame of mind. I'll definitely give it another go when I have the shiny Enhanced edition.

    2. Uh, it's not that shiny. The 3D graphics are still very dated, because Beamdog isn't a company that has the resources to completely rebuild the entire graphical output. They mainly brought the game up to modern specs --being able to handle widescreen HD graphics, for example-- while keeping as much of the original intact. It can be a bit of a shock to the system, such as playing Sid Meier's Civilization 1 today. My kids used to tease me saying "you used to play this?" when they'd see an older game such as this one up on my PC.


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