There should be no easier draw in this hobby than a free game. So why is it so hard to feel good about Amazon Prime Gaming?
With multiple games to claim per month, on top of goodies for a load of live service games—all included as part of the Amazon Prime subscription half the world already has—it should be an easy slam dunk. But half the gamers I know don’t even seem to be aware it’s a thing, and whenever I actually redeem the games on offer, I’m left more baffled than pleased.
The page is an absolute tangle to even navigate, and once you do find the games you want to grab, you discover they all unlock on different services. Some give you Steam keys, or GOG keys, or Epic keys; some direct you to sites you’ve never heard of; some get you to perform an elaborate ritual to connect your Amazon account to any one of a million game-specific profiles you’re signed up for over the years; and some, most mysteriously of all, are redeemed directly to your Amazon game library, a thing no one has ever looked at or ever will. Did you know it has a desktop app? Of course you didn’t—why would you?
The human brain craves order; Amazon, what you have created here is chaos. There’s never even any rhyme or reason to the games offered. A modern AAA action game sitting alongside an obscure 90s arcade game, a TV tie-in game that isn’t even available in stores anymore, a hidden object game, and a classic old CRPG. Madness.
But the biggest issue, as with most of Amazon’s perks, is discoverability. For a company that has my email address more times over than anyone but Google, it’s weirdly bad at actually letting me know when a game I might like is available. The only time I end up redeeming a game is when I randomly remember that Prime Gaming exists once every couple of months, and subject myself once again to its carnival of chaos. Much like Amazon’s music services, huge free comics library, and other random perks, I suspect most of its users are oblivious to it and would be put off by the messing about required even if they ever did find it.
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There’s clearly a lot of money going into Prime Gaming, and frequently the free games are well worth picking up, as long as you can stomach them being split across multiple stores. But there doesn’t seem to be any understanding on Amazon’s part of how to make it a user-friendly service. It’s very possible that there’s just no interest in improving it—as any Comixology user can tell you, Amazon is perfectly happy to offer a terrible service as long as it feels its place in that market is secure regardless. But then why bother putting in the resources to keep pumping up the offerings?
Some mysteries, capitalism simply doesn’t have the answers for. For my part, until Amazon figures out how to make Prime Gaming more than a confusing trap baited with free stuff, I refuse to ever learn what this Luna thing that turns up at the bottom is.