Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Alex Wong/Getty Images

by Ben Gilbert, Business Insider

Did you know that Amazon, the biggest company in the world, launched a big-budget video game this year?

The game is called “Crucible,” and you could be forgiven if this is the first you’re hearing about it. Despite being free to play and available on the world’s largest gaming platform, Steam, “Crucible” quickly came and went from the top-100 chart.

One week after it launched in late May, the online multiplayer game had fewer than 5,000 players on average — a major issue, given that it was intended to compete with the likes of “Fortnite” and “Valorant.”

In late June, Amazon pulled the game from digital stores and put it back in “closed beta,” a game-development term that means a game isn’t complete. And in a blog post published Friday night, it killed “Crucible.”

“Ultimately we didn’t see a healthy, sustainable future ahead,” the post said, adding, “That evaluation led us to a difficult decision: We’ll be discontinuing development on ‘Crucible.'”

Any purchases that players made within the game can be refunded, and the ability to buy in-game currency has already been suspended. The game’s matchmaking functionality, which enables multiplayer, will be disabled “in the coming weeks,” with a final sunset date for custom games on November 9, the post said.

“Crucible” is a team-based online multiplayer shooter that takes inspiration from online multiplayer battle-arena games like “League of Legends” and “DOTA 2” rather than competitive shooters like “Fortnite.”

It’s also a free-to-play game with a PC focus, putting it in direct competition with games like “Valorant” and “Fortnite.” Amazon’s goal for “Crucible,” which it had been working on since at least 2014, was to attract tens of millions of players and, with any luck, make it a major esport game.

Amazon’s “Crucible.” Amazon

The contrast between how “Crucible” launched and how “Valorant” launched helps illustrate why the former failed while the latter has succeeded.

When “Valorant” launched this year, it was available in a closed beta that you could access only by watching Twitch streamers play the game live; through a “drop” system tied to Twitch accounts, viewers would gain free access to the beta. This way, new “Valorant” players already had some idea of how to play the game, because they’d watched someone play it live.

In the weeks leading up to and following the launch of “Crucible,” Amazon, which owns Twitch, didn’t use its own streaming service to promote the game. There were no major streamers playing the game and hyping it up, no trailers for it running as ads, and no drop system to gain early access. Similarly, on YouTube, ads for “Crucible” were nowhere to be seen.

“Crucible” had about 25,000 concurrent players at its peak, on May 21. By May 22, two days after launch, it had already disappeared from Steam’s list of the 100 most-played games, which bottoms out at about 5,000 concurrent players.

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