It was only a matter of time before someone came along and leaked Amazon's super-secret console plans. The latest entry in the saga is an Android game controller with the Amazon logo stamped right on the front.
Amazon Controller Influences
Amazon's controller appears to be a mix between the original OnLive controller and PowerA's Android-focused MOGA Pro. The overall shape is strikingly similar to OnLive's solution (see right), enough so that I contacted OnLive to see if there's a partnership, which was a big "no." Like the OnLive controller, Amazon has placed media buttons at the bottom, but without the Stop and Menu options. And like the OnLive controller, there's an analog stick and four ABXY action buttons mounted on the right side. The controller even provides both shoulder and trigger buttons.
However, unlike the OnLive version, Amazon took notes from the MOGA PRO (see left) and flipped the analog stick and directional buttons positions, with the former at the top left and the latter on the bottom left. The Select, OnLive and Start buttons have been replaced by the "Back," "Home" and "Menu" Android buttons. The LEDs are relocated as well, moving four along the right side of the interface and two alongside the left.
So what are the LEDs for? Presumably, the four on the right show the battery level, or show which controller is in use. The lone two LEDs on the left could be for switching between two modes, similar to what the MOGA controllers provide so that they can work with most Android games with controller support.
Amazon GameCircle Button
Instead of the OnLive button, the Amazon controller provides an Amazon GameCircle button. This is the company's service for tracking achievements, leaderboards, and storing saved games if they're supported. There are approximately 1263 games that support GameCircle, which are loaded onto Amazon's Android-only Appstore. There's a good chance this service will be revamped to be more like Xbox Live or Apple's Game Center.
Media Buttons for Amazon Instant Video?
What's curious about this controller is the presence of media buttons. This leads to an assumption that whatever it's connected to will have access to Amazon Instant Video. We've covered this topic here at Tom's for quite a while, and the appearance of these buttons seem to verify that the whispers of unnamed sources haven't been all huff and puff. The last we heard, the set-top-box will be called Firetube and sport the company's forked version of Android, Fire OS 3.1 "Mojito."
Sources said last month that owners of Amazon's upcoming set-top-box will allow users to download music, movies and TV shows to the device. Thus customers can download and install their favorite games through the Appstore. The controller could be used to navigate through the set-top-box's interface using a Bluetooth wireless connection. A photo of the back shows that the controller will take batteries instead of a charge via USB.
Amazon Firetube Console or Set-Top-Box?
The interface of Firetube will presumably be similar to what's provided on the Kindle Fire tablets: Games, Apps, Music, Videos, Photos and so on. Sources claim that the controller will not ship with the set-top-box, but will instead be sold separately. They also claim that the controller will indeed work with the Kindle Fire tablets, and work with apps such as Netflix and Hulu. That said, the set-top-box in question likely won't be entirely focused on gaming.
The "Firetube" set-top-box is rumored to be hitting shelves in late March or April. Previously, insiders pointed to a 4Q 2013 release date, then narrowed it down to sometime in December. Obviously, that didn't happen. Sources have also said that the box -- along with the controller -- is in development at Amazon's Lab126 facilities, aka the company's research and development division. This is also the facility where Amazon was testing a wireless service and developing the Kindle phone(s).
Earlier this year, sources said Amazon's set-top-box, powered by Qualcomm hardware, would compete directly with similar products like Apple TV, the Boxee Cloud DVR, the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and others. Unnamed sources said that the team behind the set-top-box is also talking to game developers mainly in the United States, and reaching out to a handful of developers spread out across the globe. The idea is to create a highly-rich gaming ecosystem based on what sources claim is high-end hardware.
Amazon's long-term gaming-focused plan extends beyond the set-top-box, sources have claimed. The next set of Kindle tablets will support game controllers as well act as a "second screen" for the Amazon set-top-box. Amazon is even providing game developers with an SDK, although the company isn't specifically mentioning a dedicated box.