Mike Frazzini, the head of Amazon Games, is leaving over a decade after helping found the megacorp's video games division. Hey, it's probably good to go out on a high, having finally found success with New World and Lost Ark after years of failures and cancellations. A prior report claimed he was part of why it took them so long to do anything, mind.
Bloomberg report that Frazzini told staff on Friday that was leaving Amazon to focus on his family. Years as an Amazon executive must pay alright.
"Mike was there at the beginning of Amazon Games, and his leadership and perseverance helped build the games business from the ground up," Amazon PR said in a statement to Bloomberg. "Our recent successes with New World and Lost Ark are the result of the long-term, customer-focused vision for games he helped establish. We are very grateful for all his contributions, and wish Mike the very best."
Success is a recent development for Amazon Games. For almost a decade, it seemed like the world's third-largest company had magnificently failed to enter video games.
In the early years, Noteworthy developers including Portal designer Kim Swift and Far Cry 2 creative director Clint Hocking joined Amazon then eventually left without releasing any game. In 2016 the company released a free 3D game engine, Amazon Lumberyard, based on Crytek's CryEngine, which hasn't been used much outside their own games and the eternally unfinished Star Citizen (and has since been handed to the Linux Foundation and morphed into the Open 3D Engine). In 2018 they cancelled multiplayer ballsport Breakway. In 2019 they reportedly laid off dozens of employees and cancelled several other projects. Then their 2020 multiplayer shooter Crucible went down so poorly that they unreleased it then cancelled it. Honestly, I didn't think they'd ever release anything popular.
I suspect Amazon Games were starting to doubt that too. Their 2021 MMO New World launched so strongly, briefly being the most popular game on Steam, that servers were massively overloaded and it took them ages to catch up. Player numbers dwindled, as player numbers will, but it's still respectably in the middle of Steam's top 100 most-played games. The same happened earlier this year when they published the western release of South Korean company Smilegate's action-RPG Lost Ark, which is still right now the sixth most populous game on Steam. Not bad.
Last year, a report pointed to Frazzini as part of why Amazon's foray into games had gone so badly. Bloomberg claimed, based on talking developers, that he didn't really understand games or game development. Supposedly he understaffed teams, neglected advice, and insisted upon chasing trends and trying to copy other successful games like Fortnite and League Of Legends, leading only to cancelled projects. That report had a lot of other claims about problems at Amazon Games.