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Illustration: Toma Vagner for Bloomberg
Technology
Screentime

Amazon Can Make Just About Anything—Except a Good Video Game

The company produces successful movies, TV shows, e-readers and speakers, but gaming has proven difficult to crack.

Mike Frazzini had never made a video game when he helped start Amazon Game Studios. Eight years later, he has released two duds, withdrew both from stores after a torrent of negative reactions and canceled many more. For a company that dominates countless areas of retail, consumer electronics and enterprise computing, the multiple failures in gaming show one realm that may be impervious to Amazon.com Inc.’s distinctive business philosophy. It tried to make games the Amazon way, instead of simply making games people would want to play.

Frazzini is an Amazon lifer who came up in the books section of the website, where he endeared himself to Jeff Bezos as a manager there. Conventional wisdom inside the company is that if you can run one business, you can run any other. Amazon’s deep financial resources certainly help. As head of the games division, Frazzini has acquired established development studios and pushed the company to spend nearly $1 billion for the live video streaming website Twitch. Frazzini recruited some of the top names in the video game industry, including creators of the critically acclaimed franchises EverQuest and Portal, as well as executives from Electronic Arts Inc. and other big publishers.