Amazon’s fantasy MMO New World went live earlier this week, and despite some high-profile troubles with long queues and silly lore, it’s a hit: Four days in, it remains atop the Steam Top 100, today surpassing perennial heavyweights PUBG, Dota 2, and even CS:GO in terms of concurrent players. And no one is enjoying the success more than Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos, who tweeted triumphantly about the game earlier today.
“After many failures and setbacks in gaming we have a success,” Bezos wrote. “So proud of the team for the persistence. View setbacks as helpful obstacles that drive learning. Whatever your goals are, don’t give up no matter how hard it gets.”
It sounds like something you’d see on an aspirational plaque hanging in your mom’s kitchen, but there’s truth to it: Despite having virtually limitless resources, Amazon has struggled to come up with a game that people want to play. It pulled the plug on the no-lane MOBA Breakaway and a Lord of the Rings MMO it had in development, and even “un-released” its 2020 hero shooter Crucible—something I don’t recall ever happening previously—before deciding to end its misery completely.
New World is a success story now, but it appeared to experience plenty of difficulty during development. It was delayed no fewer than four times, from May 2020 to August, then spring 2021, then August 2021, and finally a last-minute nudge to September 28. Before all that it faced criticism over its portrayal of colonialism, which according to a Bloomberg article that Bezos linked in a followup tweet, was only addressed after a tribal consultant hired by the studio confirmed that, yes, the portrayal of some in-game characters was in fact racist. There was also the whole “bricking expensive GPUs” thing during one of the beta tests, which though extremely rare, was shocking.
Despite all that, it’s a legitimate hit—by peak concurrent numbers on Steam it beats Valheim as the biggest new game of 2021 so far. We’ll see how Battlefield 2042 compares in November, arguably the next blockbuster on the calendar.
It’s impossible to say where New World will be in a year, whether it will be on the road to obscurity or finally giving World of Warcraft something to sweat about, but right now it’s a huge success that validates the commitment and patience Amazon has taken with it. Bezos may not have had a direct hand in its creation, but as the person who greenlighted Amazon’s foray into gaming more than a half-decade ago, you can understand his pride in it.