Amazon’s next game is a four-on-four multiplayer battler called Breakaway, the company announced tonight, and will be the first game in the world to use a new currency developed by popular streaming site Twitch. Both the game and the currency — called Stream+ — were revealed at Twitchcon in San Diego. Amazon Game Studios promised that Stream+ would integrate directly with Breakaway, while a video clip indicated that players would be able to earn the currency by watching matches online, and use those coins to bet on the outcome.
Created by Killer Instinct developer Double Helix Games, Breakaway seems to combine the basics of Dota 2 and League of Legends with elements of tower defense games and cult hit Rocket League. Players can build catapults and other structures on their side of the map, before the two teams meet in the middle to brawl, hurl magic at each other, and try to drive a ball-like relic to an enemy’s base for points. Heroes appear to draw on real-world mythology, including Vlad the Impaler, Spartacus, and Arthurian enchantress Morgan Le Fay, and fit into the kind of archetypes we see in so-called MOBAs, offering support, DPS, and tank roles.
Breakaway looks like a cross between tower defense games, Rocket League, and League of Legends
Twitch was bought by Amazon in 2014 for just shy of $1 billion. That helps explain why Breakaway will be the first game to use Stream+, rather than established Twitch-friendly titles like League of Legends, but both Amazon and Twitch have yet to describe how the currency will actually work. We know viewers will be able to wager on matches, but we don’t know what the currency could be exchanged for, whether it could be bought with real money, or if it could be traded between players. Recent clampdowns on the betting scene that sprung up around Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, however, suggest that both Twitch and Amazon Game Studios would need to ensure the system couldn’t be gamed for inappropriate financial gain.
Other games have used Twitch betting before
Breakaway won’t be the first game to incorporate betting into its Twitch presence. In the run-up to the release of 2D robot shooter Cobalt, published by Minecraft makers Mojang, players could bet fake money on the result of matches between AI-controlled characters, and Twitch is also the home of Salty Bet, a channel that lets viewers wager "Salty Bucks" on the outcome of bizarre beat ’em up bouts. People used to be able to exchange real-world money for a source of guaranteed Salty Bucks, but crucially, in both of these examples, the currencies on offer had no way for betters to turn them back into actual money.
Stream+ seems likely to follow a similar template, to avoid falling foul of strict US rules for online casinos. But while Stream+ is unlikely to become the engine of an ersatz real-money casino, the connection between Twitch and Amazon may allow for the currency to be spent in more places than just on the outcomes of Breakaway matches. Amazon Game Studios says that players should also expect this kind of Twitch integration in two other titles being "built for Twitch broadcasters" coming in the future: sandbox adventure New World (below), and deceptive DotA-like Crucible. No release dates have been given for any of the three new games yet.
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