Amazon Games lays off 180 workers, says all people really want from Prime is free games

An Amazon warehouse in Rialto, California, US, on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Southern California's Inland Empire, a notorious boom-and-bust economy, is showing warning signs for the rest of the US.
(Image credit: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Amazon Games is laying off 180 employees, with the cuts being mainly focused on its Prime-related offerings. The entire team from Crown Channel, an Amazon-backed channel on Amazon-owned Twitch, has been let go, and the news adds to a miserable pile of layoffs across the gaming and tech industries in 2023: Amazon Games itself already made 100 job cuts in April.

The news was first reported by Reuters, and also affects Amazon's "Game Growth" initiative, which focused on helping publishers promote their titles and is being closed, although it's still advertising eight open positions at the time of writing.

Crown Channel is especially notable however as a high-profile organiser of game-related events on Twitch featuring major personalities, which you'd have thought Amazon could make work. Not so, said a Bloomberg report earlier this year, which claimed that the channel's viewing figures were being misrepresented through tactics such as making it autoplay on the homepage. Amazon denied inflating the metrics. Crown Channel was all about pulling together Amazon's disparate gaming strands and creating an engaged audience it could market its other offerings to, but clearly that strategy has now gone the way of the dodo.

Christoph Hartmann, VP of Amazon Games, sent an email to all Amazon Games employees about the cuts. It rather bluntly states that part of the company's "bold vision" is to experiment and "review these experiments", and things don't get better from there:

"The leadership team and I have made the difficult decision to close two of our initiatives—Crown Channel and Game Growth. We are also refocusing our efforts for Prime Gaming. We've listened to our customers and we know delivering free games every month is what they want most, so we are refining our Prime benefit to increase our focus there. With these changes in our business approach come changes to our resourcing, resulting in the elimination of just over 180 roles."

There's further management talk about this being "difficult news" and how "proud of the work" Amazon is. Hartmann says Amazon Games is now focused on the launches of Throne and Liberty and Blue Protocol, both of which it's publishing, as well as longer-term projects like its Tomb Raider and Lord of the Rings games. 

I suppose at least, with the wider company's profits at record levels (just under $10 billion in the last quarter), those affected won't have to worry about their severance pay coming through.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."