PlayFab is launching a major update for its cloud-game services business that will make it easier for mobile and online game developers to launch their games. The idea is to offload the grunt work so developers can focus on making fun titles.
James Gwertzman, the chief executive of Seattle-based PlayFab, told GamesBeat that 900 developers have signed up. More than 100 games are in active development using the PlayFab infrastructure. Ten games are live with PlayFab already, he said. Those are pretty good numbers since PlayFab only started pitching its services and tools in August. Those tools handle the mundane but technically difficult tasks of running game servers, analyzing user behavior, and providing customer support. PlayFab does a lot of tasks that publishers once did, helping developers build, scale, operate, manage, and monetize games.
“Compared to what we showed last August, I’m really happy with what we can do now for developers,” Gwertzman said.
It does so through a cloud-based service with a user interface dubbed the PlayFab Game Manager, which is viewable on a tablet. Today, the company is launching its Game Manager 2.0, which includes a feature called Cloud Script. It enables developers to put their game logic in cloud-based servers without incurring the cost of a full game server. Such cloud-based servers mean that the games will be more easily modifiable and much harder to hack, Gwertzman said.
Game Manager 2.0 is a mission control center for a live operations team. The update also includes more advanced analytics for segmenting players, pushing out notifications to users, and analyzing a game’s stats in detail.
PlayFab is also announcing a partnership with Cover Fire, a free-to-play consultancy that offers advice on how developers can operate and optimize their games. Cover Fire is run by Chris Ko, a former Kabam exec who now advises a bunch of companies in free-to-play practices.
“Few game developers have the right tools or technologies to effectively operate their game once it launches,” said Ko in a statement. “That’s why we’re such believers in what PlayFab is trying to do — we could be much more helpful to our clients out of the gate if their games were built on a platform like PlayFab.”
Developers can use PlayFab to publish their games on platforms such as the PlayStation 4, PC, and mobile devices.
Spry Fox, a Seattle indie game developer and publisher, is using PlayFab for its aerial combat game Steambirds.
“We could have built our own backend from scratch, but it would have taken a long time and distracted us from our core focus, which is original game design,” said David Edery, the CEO of Spry Fox, in a statement. “With PlayFab, we can concentrate on the things we do best.”
PlayFab recently raised $2.5 million in funding from investors including Larry Bowman of Bowman Capital Management, an early investor in PopCap Games; Startup Capital Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on cloud services; and angels including Scott Banister, an IronPort co-founder; Jason Kapalka, a PopCap co-founder; Chris Carvalho, the former chief operating officer of mobile-gaming company Kabam; Patrick Wyatt, the founder of ArenaNet; and John Spinale, who most recently ran studios at Disney. PlayFab has 14 employees.
PlayFab will provide basic technologies and tools that handle customer support, in-game marketing, analytics, tools for live operations, cross-platform player accounts, in-game purchases validated by servers, multiplayer game server hosting, virtual goods management, software build management, data storage, matchmaking, game server automated scaling, leaderboards, friends lists, and push notifications. PlayFab supports the leading game engines on the market, including Unity, Unreal, Cocos2d-x, and Xamarin.
PlayFab has built its platform with Ubernet technology, which was built and operated for three years by Uber Entertainment. That company decided to spin out the technology just as Gwertzman was conceiving PlayFab. Gwertzman spent eight years at PopCap Games, many of them in China as the game industry was going through wrenching changes.
Uber Entertainment is also one of PlayFab’s shareholders, and it is a paying customer.
PlayFab has to compete with game companies that do much of their own infrastructure work in-house. On the mobile side, PlayFab competes with rivals such as cross-platform service OpenKit (which provides social features for mobile games), whose team OpenFeint investor Peter Relan financed.