Amazon is looking to bring a new element to gaming by making Alexa an in-game assistant. Launching in February 2023, Amazon’s Alexa Game Control will allow gamers to accomplish tasks in video games by speaking commands directly to Alexa.
Alexa Game Control allows players to use their voice to interact with NPCs (non-player characters), swap weapons, and more, thus eliminating a few button controls from the controller. You don’t need an Alexa device. It works with any gaming microphone. And it still operates as a normal Alexa, which means that mid-game you could order food, search Google, or control your smart home lights without pausing your game.
Alexa Game Control is starting with Dead Island 2 at first. However, I could easily see this coming to the NBA 2k or Madden franchises, giving gamers the ability to call plays verbally. It would also make the coaching / GM modes in these games way more realistic.
Ideally, Alexa helps make video games more naturally immersive. Most video game advancement involves graphics and making the games look more realistic. But the audio variable has been ignored.
Our voices are the primary way we interact with the world. It’s the surest way for us to connect and interact with each other. By making gameplay and characters in a game responsive to our voices, you make a video game closer to normal life. And thus more immersive.
Although Amazon doesn’t have any VR-related initiatives, I could see Alexa Game Control being particularly useful in VR gaming.
Is Amazon really trying to reinvent gaming though?
Building the Alexa Habit
I believe that this is really a play to integrate Alexa into our daily behaviors further. Their long-term game is creating the voice user interface (VUI). In other words, how we interact with the web via our voices.
The problem for Alexa (and other voice assistants) is that they haven’t really grown much over the years. According to an Adobe Analytics survey, the most common voice searches on smart speakers are asking for music (70%) and the weather forecast (64%), followed by fun questions (53%), online search (47%), news (46%), and asking directions (34%).
That’s more or less exactly how we were using VUIs half a decade ago. There are some fascinating new voice apps emerging that turn Alexa devices into a personal trainer, a security system, and a foreign language coach.
However, most of the best Alexa creators (like Drew Cosgrove) focus on building trivia apps and religious text apps because that’s how people are using these smart speakers.
Realistically, I see Alexa Game Control as a way for Amazon to collect more training data for their voice AI. And doing so in a challenging vocal environment. It’ll have to discern between a gamer giving voice commands and speaking with their friends in the game, which ideally should make Alexa better in everyday situations, parties, and public spaces.
Furthermore, Alexa Game Control is designed to make interacting with Alexa more habitual. Voice search is more common than you think, with 71% of people preferring to speak a query than type it. So bringing Alexa into the gaming environment is a way for Amazon to show up where people are spending 5+ hours per day, provide a little value, and collect data to improve their AI.