Amazon has decided to focus on improving video playback capabilities and affordability with the new Fire TV 3 by adding support for HDR and higher frame rate 4K video at a price that’s $30 less than the Fire TV 2 was when it first launched. Making improvements in certain areas while simultaneously lowering the cost means that something had to give and, in the case of the Fire TV 3, it’s gaming performance that suffers most, which is not as good as the Fire TV 2 it replaces. Thankfully, though, the Fire TV 3 is compatible with both the current Amazon Fire TV Game Controller and the previous generation Amazon Fire Game Controller as well as most Fire TV games.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon did not release a new game controller with the release of the Fire TV 3, like they did when the Fire TV 2 was released. Android gaming on TV devices simply hasn’t progressed much since the first Fire TV was introduced in 2014. Even NVIDIA, which has always heavily pushed their Shield TV set-top box as an “Android Gaming Console” first, is now selling the device without a game controller for the first time.
The good news is that Amazon hasn’t just abandoned Fire TV gaming altogether, because both of their official game controllers work with the new Fire TV 3. You may think that compatibility would be a given, but the Fire TV Edition televisions are not compatible with the current Fire TV Game Controller, so it was a real possibility that the Fire TV 3 would also drop support. Of course, the Fire TV 3 is also compatible with 3rd-party Bluetooth game controllers.
While the Fire TV 3 does work with both of Amazon’s game controllers, it, unfortunately, does not support the headphone jack on the newer controller. That means that the Fire TV 2 remains the only Fire TV model that supports the game controller’s headphone jack, even though the Fire TV Stick 2, Fire TV Edition televisions, and now the Fire TV 3 have been released since. All other Fire TV models must rely on using Bluetooth headphones for private listening and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon.
Even though the Fire TV 3 is a less capable gaming device than the Fire TV 2 it replaces, it doesn’t make too much of a difference in practice because most Fire TV games simply don’t require much horsepower to play. The Fire TV 3 is currently listed as compatible with 82% of the Fire TV Appstore’s games. Not being compatible with 18% of games might seem like a lot, but you can expect that number to continuously decrease over time as developers verify that their games run correctly on the new hardware and Fire OS 6.
The game incompatibility percentage for the Fire TV 3 is as high as it is because many games are simply incorrectly designated. About 4% of Fire TV games are currently marked as incompatible with the Fire TV 2, which, as the most capable gaming device in the lineup, doesn’t make any sense. For instance, there’s no reason for very popular games like Minecraft: Story Mode and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars to only be available on the Fire TV 1.
Amazon really should do a better job of getting developers to correctly configure their app’s device compatibility. There’s no excuse for great games like Machinarium and Asphalt 8 to be excluded from the Fire TV 3 when both games are compatible with the Fire TV Stick, which is an inferior device in every way. Whether it’s due to changes in Fire OS 6 or just part of the de-emphasis of gaming as a whole, if incorrect compatibility listings aren’t addressed soon, it’s only going to get worse with every new Fire TV model release.