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This blog post was authored by Kareem Choudhry, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Gaming Cloud.
Microsoft is built on the belief of empowering people and organizations to achieve more – it is the DNA of our company. Today we are announcing a new initiative, Microsoft Game Stack, in which we commit to bringing together Microsoft tools and services that will empower game developers like yourself, whether you’re an indie developer just starting out or a AAA studio, to achieve more.
This is the start of a new journey, and today we are only taking the first steps. We believe Microsoft is uniquely suited to deliver on that commitment. Our company has a long legacy in games – and in building developer-focused platforms.
There are 2 billion gamers in the world today, playing a broad range of games, on a broad range of devices. There is as much focus on video streaming, watching, and sharing within a community as there is on playing or competing. As game creators, you strive every day to continuously engage your players, to spark their imaginations, and inspire them, regardless of where they are, or what device they’re using. Today, we’re introducing Microsoft Game Stack, to help you do exactly that.
What exactly is Microsoft Game Stack?
Game Stack brings together all of our game-development platforms, tools, and services—such as Azure, PlayFab, DirectX, Visual Studio, Xbox Live, App Center, and Havok—into a robust ecosystem that any game developer can use. The goal of Game Stack is to help you easily discover the tools and services you need to create and operate your game.
The cloud plays a critical role in Game Stack, and Azure fills this vital need. Azure provides the building blocks like compute and storage, as well as cloud-native services from machine learning and AI, to push notifications and mixed reality spatial anchors. Azure is already available in 54 regions globally, including China, and continues to invest in building highly secure and sustainable cloud infrastructure and additional services for game developers. Azure’s global scale is what will give Project xCloud streaming technology the scale to deliver a great gaming experience for players worldwide, regardless of their device and location.
Already with Azure, companies like Rare, Ubisoft, and Wizards of the Coast are hosting multiplayer game servers, safely and securely storing player data, analyzing game telemetry, protecting their games from DDOS attacks, and training AI to create more immersive gameplay.
While Azure is part of Game Stack, it’s important to call out that Game Stack is cloud, network, and device agnostic. And we’re not stopping here.
The next piece of Game Stack is PlayFab, a complete backend service for building and operating live games. A year ago, we welcomed PlayFab into Microsoft through an acquisition. Today we’re excited to announce we are bringing PlayFab into the Azure family. Together, Azure and PlayFab are a powerful combination: Azure brings reliability, global scale, and enterprise-level security; PlayFab provides Game Stack with managed game-development services, real-time analytics, and LiveOps capabilities. Last fall, we saw what these two platforms can do together with PlayFab Multiplayer Servers, which allows you to safely launch and scale up multiplayer games by dynamically hosting your servers with Azure cloud compute.
To quote PlayFab’s co-founder James Gwertzman, “Modern game creators are less like movie directors, and more like cruise directors. Long-term success requires engaging players in a continuous cycle of creation, experimentation, and operation. It’s no longer possible to just ship your game and move on.” This is why a year ago, we welcomed PlayFab into Microsoft through an acquisition. PlayFab supports all major devices, from iOS and Android, to PC and Web, to Xbox, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch; and all major game engines, including Unity and Unreal. PlayFab will also continue to support all major clouds going forward.
Today we’re also excited to announce five new PlayFab services in preview.
In public preview today:
- PlayFab Matchmaking: Powerful matchmaking for multiplayer games, adapted from Xbox Live matchmaking, but now available to all games and all devices.
In private preview today (contact us to join the preview):
- PlayFab Party: Voice and chat services, adapted from Xbox Party Chat, but now available to all games and for all devices. Party leverages Azure Cognitive Services for real-time translation and transcription to make games accessible to more players.
- PlayFab Insights: Combines robust real-time game telemetry with game data from multiple other sources to measure your game’s performance and create actionable insights. Powered by Azure Data Explorer, Game Insights will offer connectors to existing first- and third-party data sources including Xbox Live.
- PlayFab PubSub: Subscribe your game client to messages pushed from PlayFab’s servers via a persistent connection, powered by Azure SignalR. This enables scenarios such as real-time content updates, matchmaking notifications, and simple multiplayer gameplay.
- PlayFab User Generated Content: Engage your community by allowing players to create and safely share user generated content with other players. This technology was originally built to support the Minecraft marketplace.
Growing the Xbox Live community
Another major component of Game Stack is Xbox Live. Over the past 16 years, Xbox Live has become one of the most vibrant and engaged gaming communities in the world. It is also a safe and inclusive network that has broken down boundaries in how gamers connect across devices.
Today, we’re excited for Xbox Live to become part of Microsoft Game Stack, providing identity and community services. Under Game Stack, Xbox Live will expand its cross-platform capabilities, as we introduce a new SDK that brings this community to iOS and Android devices.
Mobile developers will now be able to reach some of the most highly engaged and passionate gamers on the planet with Xbox Live. These are just a few of the benefits for mobile developers:
- Trusted Game Identity: With the new Xbox Live SDK, developers can focus on creating great games and leverage Microsoft‘s trusted identity network to support log-in, privacy, online safety, and child accounts.
- Frictionless Integration: New a la carte service offerings and no Xbox Live certification pass give mobile developers flexibility in how they build and update their games. Developers just use the services that best fit their needs.
- Vibrant Gaming Community: Reach Xbox Live’s growing community and connect gamers across a multitude of platforms. Find creative ways to enable achievements, Gamerscore, and “hero” stats, which have their own out-of-game experience, to keep gamers engaged.
Other Game Stack components
Other components of Game Stack include Visual Studio, Mixer, DirectX, Azure App Center, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, and Havok. In the coming months, as we work to improve and grow Game Stack, you’ll see deeper connections between these services as we unify them to work more seamlessly together.
As an example of how this integration is already underway, today we’re bringing together PlayFab and these Game Stack components:
- App Center: Crash log data from App Center is now connected to PlayFab, allowing you to better understand and respond to problems in your game in real-time by tying crash logs back to individual player profiles.
- Visual Studio Code: With PlayFab’s new plug-in for Visual Studio Code, editing and updating Cloud Script just got a lot easier.
Create your world today and achieve more
As we expand our focus to the cloud, the nature of the platform may be changing, but our commitment to empower game developers like yourself is unwavering, and we’re looking forward to the journey ahead with Microsoft Game Stack. Our teams are inspired and excited by the possibilities as we start to pull together all these great services and technologies. Please be sure to share your feedback with us as we go, so we can help you achieve more. If you’re at GDC, stop by the Microsoft booth in the South Hall of the Moscone Center to try out many of the new services, and to learn more about the exciting opportunities ahead.