Just a month after one game developer publicly shamed Amazon’s “draconian” terms for employees in its game division, it looks like the ecommerce giant has walked one of those rules back. In an internal company email reviewed by Bloomberg, one of the head execs for Amazon’s game division told employees that effective immediately, it would no longer dictate the way they distribute or develop their own, personal projects—a policy that has troubled developers for quite some time.
“These policies were originally put in place over a decade ago when we had a lot less information and experience than we do today,” wrote Mike Frazzini, VP of Amazon Game Studios in an email to staff Thursday night. He went on to add that the policies were written “quite broadly” as a result.
Some of these old policies came to light in a now-deleted Twitter post by James Liu, a game designer who was offered a job at Amazon Game Studios in 2018. Liu says he turned it down over the severe mandates surrounding games developed as a hobby during normal working hours—according to these initial rules, devs were only allowed to create games that used Amazon’s game-making tools, and only if they would be made available on Amazon’s platforms. To avoid potential competition, Amazon also mandated that these personal projects could only be worked on with other Amazon employees, and Amazon would also need to be granted any rights for their resulting game—specifically asking for “a royalty free, worldwide, fully paid-up, perpetual, transferable license” for anything these devs would create.
Liu, naturally, wasn’t too happy about these rules, and claimed that they were the reason he ultimately turned down a job with Amazon. Meanwhile, the company’s game division has continued to struggle at finding any decent footing in the game market at all, with the bulk of its original games being discontinued or flat out canceled before they’re even released.
In reports detailing the recent internal breakdown of Amazon Game Studios, which first debuted in 2012, some current and former employees chalk up these failures to the rigid, rule-based internal culture that Amazon wields over its workers company-wide. Hopefully, this latest rule-reversal is a sign of better things to come for the game-makers working under Amazon’s rule.
We’ve reached out to Amazon about the email and will update this post when we hear back.