An Exploration of the Video Game ‘Lost Ark’ and Problems With Amazon Hosting

Recently, Amazon has invested in the gaming industry, with little success so far. Will their newest investment, ‘Lost Ark,’ pay off?


Sophie Livingstone

Lost Ark’s ‘Chaos Dungeon’ is one of the daily raids players can attempt for extra loot.

Spending hours on a task or or becoming deeply immersed in a piece of media, experiencing all that it has to offer, is nothing short of satisfaction. For me, this phenomenon came in the form of the video game Lost Ark, the newest, and likely largest video game released by Amazon Games. 

Produced by Smilegate and Tripod Studios, Lost Ark was released on December 4th, 2019 in South Korea and later held an open beta in Russia and Japan in June of 2020. At that time, the studios were both relatively unknown, Smilegate had a track record of releasing games, but most were not very popular or available as mobile games. Tripod Studios was even less recognized, with Lost Ark being their only game known to date. 

Both studios knew that Lost Ark was a major undertaking in terms of development and beta-testing, and it later needed updates. Lost Ark falls under the gaming category of “Massively Multiplayer Online game” (MMO). One popular MMO you might have heard of is World of Warcraft (WoW), produced by Blizzard Entertainment. 

As the name suggests, MMOs focus on a “multiplayer” experience. While they often have stories, a player can follow along with in single-player interactions that act similarly to an interactive book. The main crux of the game relies on events and tasks that require multiple players. Normally, there are weekly, daily, or even hourly events held for players to join. One such example of this is the ‘Guardian Raids,’ which is a recurring daily event in which four players join together to engage in combat against a singular, very difficult monster.

Although, there are options for players who are more interested in fighting one another instead of working together, certain events, such as the Illusion Island, pit players against each other in a gladiator arena-esc combat, where the top three players who beat the most opposing players receive all of the illustrious bounty.

One of the key parts of any MMO are its guilds, which are groups of players that join together under one banner in order to work together to accomplish some of the games’ tasks. Normally, there are a few things you can do specifically in a guild such as guild wars, in which one guild is pitted against another.

Both of these two examples require one main thing, players, something that two smaller game companies cannot often attract without a massive stroke of luck. Most people would say it would take a miracle for two, smaller indie companies to produce a massive game, with an even bigger player-base. 

Within its first year, however, the game was a hit. Lost Ark won six awards in the Korea Game Awards of 2019, including the Grand Prize. The Korean MMO community loved it; Smilegate continued to release quality updates that added more multiplayer experiences and cosmetic items, as well as quality-of-life changes. 

Later, it was announced the game would be released in other regions such as Japan, as a beta-test, before it was picked up by Amazon for an official release in North America and Europe. In exchange for Smilegate’s game, Amazon would be providing the hosting servers that would allow for Lost Ark to reach players worldwide. 

It was an incredibly easy introductory game to the very dedicated community of MMO players. MMO’s usually require a lot of time investment to become stronger. Therefore, it is beneficial to play in certain timed events. Otherwise, you would have to spend a lot of time obtaining specific ingredients. In exchange, you’re rewarded greatly in power level, whether that is for in-game combat strength or more cosmetic things such as upgrading your stronghold or home-base. For example, to upgrade your stronghold or storage, you may need to invest time in chopping down trees and gathering wood, which you then have to furnish into proper planks, which you can then use to upgrade your base.

The visuals of Lost Ark have been praised as extremely high-end for an MMO. Usually graphics must be simplified in order to compensate for such a large player-base, but with Amazon’s extended servers and the continued support of the community, Lost Ark’s visuals grow even more beautiful through each location that the game offers. (Sophie Livingstone)

One of the main appeals to Lost Ark was the unique class options for choosing one’s character. There are main classes and subclasses. The main class is a simplified play style. “I like the combat mechanics; it’s very satisfying to use all of your abilities, the animations are great, and the gameplay makes the generic dungeon fights that much more enjoyable,” said Jacob Ko ’22.

Lost Ark arrived unexpectedly for many players, including myself. On February 7th, 2022, the most trending product on Steam, a popular platform for purchasing games, wasn’t one of the big videos from any notable franchise. Rather, it was downloadable content (DLC) packages for a singular title, Lost Ark

Ranging from fifteen to one-hundred dollars, Steam offered users a chance to get a “Founder’s Pack,” which was a bundle of increasingly scaling resources and cosmetic items that could be used in-game. This isn’t that impressive on its own, but what made the deal special was the opportunity to play the game three days before its initial release date on February 11th, 2022.

On February 8th, 2022, a group of eager players, including myself, logged into Lost Ark. We began the journey of character creation and gameplay, and almost instantly faced major roadblocks.

Amazon’s reputation in the gaming community, especially the MMO community, has always been below par. Amazon has an extensive amount of money with which they can use to fund almost any project, but they rarely pay enough attention to video game projects. In the past, they hosted another MMO called New World, which almost instantly crashed, due to rampant duplication of resources, with little response from Amazon’s development team. 

The slow responses timed with the minimal effort left a sour taste in the mouth of any potential players of Amazon’s future endeavors in the gaming industry. 

Lost Ark was predicted to also face many of the same challenges, especially as the community skyrocketed in numbers after the first few days where players who chose not to spend money joined in after the initial buzz. The sheer number of players who joined had greatly exceeded the estimates by both Smilegate and Amazon, even in the first three days where the game was not even open for free-to-play users.

North America had two separate servers which players could be split between, North America East and North America West, which, for the most part, allowed for a manageable number of players to be distributed between each region and the servers in those regions. The servers in each region hold a specific amount of players before they have to create a queue that has players wait on a timer until enough players leave so they are allowed into their desired server.

New arrivals often faced the challenge of picking between a newly made server that would contain fewer people and make the experience much easier, or attempt to join into a server that would have already been conquered by the masses of early-arrivals because their friends had already made an account there. “The game does not allow for cross server gameplay, so if I wanted to play the game with someone from a different server, I could not, which was a huge disappointment, because this meant that I had to go play the entirety of the game up to the point I left off on, in order to play the game with some friends on a different server,” said Ko.

The European servers were more problematic; people were often stuck in long queue times while trying to enter into their desired server. Once a player makes a character on a specific server, that character cannot be transferred to another, leaving European players unable to progress, even as Amazon slowly started to create new servers for newer players to migrate too. 

This eventually culminated into Amazon splitting the European servers into Europe East and Europe West as a band-aid fix. 

At the same time, Europe was also facing another problem well-known to Amazon duplication. The previously mentioned “Founder’s Pack” rewards could be duplicated specifically on European servers. This news spread rapidly, with many players complaining about the unfair balance and the ruined economy of the game. This was eventually fixed, but it took a relatively long period of time for what was considered a widely game-breaking bug.

Often, players reported these issues to Amazon support that were specifically tasked for their new gaming section, with little to no response. 

This seems to be a testament to Amazon’s lack of experience in the gaming industry and a lackluster attempt to start yet another monopoly in an industry in which they are unfamiliar. Even now, the Lost Ark community, while thriving, is disappointed in Amazon for its poor responses to the earlier working problems of the game.

Spending hours on a task or or becoming deeply immersed in a piece of media, experiencing all that it has to offer, is nothing short of satisfaction. For me, this phenomenon came in the form of the video game Lost Ark, the newest, and likely largest video game released by Amazon Games.