Just ahead of the Game Developers Conference, Microsoft announced that its new Microsoft Game Stack will bundle all of the tools and services that game developers need to make games, whether they are cloud-connected or not.

The bundle is aimed at everyone, from indie developers to Triple-A studios, and it includes the latest version of PlayFab, the live game services and operations company that Microsoft acquired last year.

Game Stack brings together all of Microsoft’s game-development platforms, tools, and services — such as Azure, PlayFab, DirectX, Visual Studio, Xbox Live, App Center, and Havok — into a single ecosystem that any game developer can use. The goal of Game Stack is to help developers easily discover the tools and services they need to create and operate games. The cloud service Azure has already been used in games like Crackdown 3, which has a multiplayer combat mode that taps the power of cloud processing to enable destructible buildings across an entire map.

Above: Azure is bringing together a lot of gaming tools in one place.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure, said in a press briefing that the cloud plays a critical role in Game Stack, and Microsoft’s cloud service Azure provides the building blocks like compute and storage on the cloud, as well as cloud-native services from machine learning and AI, to push notifications and mixed reality spatial anchors.

“The cloud is changing every industry and gaming is no exception,” White said.

She said 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 — which Microsoft demoed this week — streaming technology the scale to deliver a great gaming experience for players worldwide, regardless of their device and location.

With Azure, developers at 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 cyber attacks, and training AI to create more immersive gameplay.

While Azure is part of Game Stack, White said that that Game Stack is cloud, network, and device agnostic.

Microsoft bought PlayFab in January 2018, and now it is integrated into Azure. Developers will still have the choice of using other clouds such as Google or Amazon Web Services, if they wish.

With PlayFab, developers will get access to a complete backend service for building and operating live games. White said that Azure brings reliability, global scale, and enterprise-level security. Meanwhile, PlayFab provides Game Stack with managed game-development services, real-time analytics, and LiveOps capabilities.

White said, “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.'”

Above: Microsoft Azure and Azure PlayFab are now integrated.

Image Credit: Microsoft

PlayFab’s services include:

  • PlayFab Matchmaking: Powerful matchmaking for multiplayer games, adapted from Xbox Live matchmaking, but now available to all games and all devices.
  • 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 Game 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 Pub Sub: Subscribe a 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 a 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.

Microsoft also announced that Xbox Live is coming to Android and iOS. As an example of the integration, White said that crash log data from Azure App Center is now connected to PlayFab, allowing developers to better understand and respond to problems in a game in real-time by tying crash logs back to individual player profiles.

And with PlayFab’s new plug-in for Visual Studio Code, editing and updating Cloud Script is now easier. White said there are more than 200 services within Azure, which is spread across 54 data centers in many regions across the globe. Microsoft spends $1 billion a year on cloud cybersecurity, White said.

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