Microsoft is doubling down on gaming inside its cloud division, bringing together several developer tools and services under one umbrella and introducing new capabilities from a key acquisition made last year.
The new Microsoft Game Stack unites services such as Xbox Live, Azure, Visual Studio and PlayFab, the Seattle startup Microsoft acquired last year. None of these services is new on their own, but bringing them together under Game Stack is designed to make it easier for developers to find and use Microsoft’s tools.
“Historically, our lineup of game developer tools has been varied and lived in pockets all across Microsoft,” Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft corporate vice president of gaming cloud said in a briefing ahead of the big Game Developers Conference this week. “Developers don’t really have time to go searching for tools, and we know it’s been hard to navigate and take full advantage of everything we have to offer.”
PlayFab has quickly become an important part of Microsoft’s gaming strategy. It gives developers a back-end platform to build, launch and manage games.
Microsoft said it has now brought PlayFab into the Azure organization. Today it unveiled several new PlayFab services for developers.
- The ability to build voice and chat features based on Xbox Party Chat with transcription and translation capabilities
- Matchmaking to find opponents in multi-player games
- Insights and game performance metrics taken from game data
- Subscription to PlayFab’s servers to automatically receive real-time content updates and matchmaking notifications
- Based on technology originally built for Minecraft, the ability to create and share content from users
These announcements are all part of Microsoft’s mission to make Azure the “cloud of choice” for game developers around the globe, Azure Corporate Vice President Julia White said. It has a unique advantage in terms of gaming experience, as well as its own console ecosystem.
Microsoft is making a huge bet on its cloud gaming capabilities, led by its Project xCloud service, which has the potential to usher in a new era of gaming by bringing high-powered Xbox games to smartphones. Microsoft has more data center regions than its competitors, meaning data doesn’t have to travel far to get to devices and enabling the company to pull off some of these ambitious initiatives, White said.
Fitting with the company’s overall push to make its apps and services work across a variety of platforms, including rival offerings, Microsoft Game Stack will work for developers building games for any type of device, as well as other cloud platforms.
“Whatever game developers choose, we will support them regardless of where they want to create content for their customers,” Choudhry said.