Amazon Fire TV is a small console that could have a huge effect.

Just how big an effect, though, depends on your perspective. If you see it as an entertainment gadget, it has the potential to surpass Roku devices, Google's Chromecast and Apple TV. As a microconsole, it's already three steps ahead of the Ouya and Gamestick. Stacked up against established consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it's underpowered but has a great value considering the $99 price.

Let's take a look at the entertainment side first. Amazon Fire TV excels in streaming content from its network. Accessing movies is almost instantaneous, and users can navigate the menus with ease using the buttons on the remote. What's even better is that the device has an accurate voice search. Users can just say what they're looking for, and the device pulls it up.

"Asphalt 8" by Gameloft is one of the better titles on Amazon Fire TV. If it succeeds as a gaming system, it will need a stronger library with
"Asphalt 8" by Gameloft is one of the better titles on Amazon Fire TV. If it succeeds as a gaming system, it will need a stronger library with compelling exclusives. (Courtesy of Amazon)

Although the tech is good, Amazon Fire TV does have a few holes in its app portfolio. The system doesn't have HBO Go, Vudu or Crunchyroll. However, it does support other major streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

But where the device really becomes intriguing is in its potential as a game system, a major component that separates it from Apple TV and Roku players. Amazon Fire TV is already a superior alternative to microconsoles released last year. It allows players to access games they've already downloaded to their smartphones via the Amazon Appstore. It supports a dedicated game controller ($40) that's stiff but comparable to one on the Xbox 360. Because it's backed by a tech giant, the system has the clout to attract more mainstream titles such as "Minecraft: Pocket Edition" and "The Walking Dead."


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Despite these advantages, the system runs into some of the same problems that hamstring its gaming rivals. First off, there's a dearth of polished and original experiences to make Amazon Fire TV stand out. Sure, it boasts such established titles as "Asphalt 8" and "Sonic CD," but other than "Sev Zero," a game from its in-house team, the device doesn't have much that's new to really lure gamers. Making matters worse is that there isn't a consistent quality to the titles available.

Overall, the Amazon market suffers from fragmentation. There are too many options, making it confusing for players and leaving good games vulnerable to being drowned out or ignored. On top of that, several games feel like they're quick and buggy ports from the smartphone market, and not tailor-made for the system.

Despite these issues, players will find some diamonds in the rough. Games such as "Recursion," "Into the Dead" and "Dark Incursion" are worth players' time. "Into the Dead" is especially notable on the big-screen and shows how microconsoles are closing the graphic-quality gap with larger consoles.

Amazon Fire TV has the foundation to be a great system, but the company needs to build a gaming identity for it. They need an angle that can draw away players seeking an alternative to the major players.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/gcacho.