January 30, 2018 // 11:24 a.m.
Microsoft has announced a deal to acquire cloud gaming specialist PlayFab for an undisclosed sum as part of what chief executive Satya Nadella has described as an effort to 'pursue our extensive opportunity in a 100-plus-billion [dollar] gaming market'.
Founded in 2011 as UberNet by James Gwertzman and Matt Augustine, PlayFab's pitch is to offer a cloud-powered backend platform for game developers with everything from player authentication and data storage to tournaments, leaderboards, chat services with profanity filtering, push notifications, and monetisation through virtual currencies and in-game transactions - all with a range of analytics, naturally. It's a platform which has seen success in everything from mobile card games to first-person shooters, and now it's one Microsoft is going to pull into its Azure cloud computing family in an acquisition the financial terms of which have not been disclosed.
'The PlayFab platform is a natural complement to Azure for gaming,' claims Microsoft's Kareem Choudhry in the company's announcement. 'Azure, with locations in 42 regions worldwide, provides world-class server infrastructure, allowing creators to focus on building great games with best-available global reach. For gamers, this leads to a higher, faster degree of innovation and better experiences. Incorporating PlayFab’s experience, growing network of game developers and powerful gaming-as-a-service platform into our product offering is an important step forward for gaming at Microsoft.'
'Matt and I launched PlayFab four years ago to solve a burning need. Games were rapidly shifting from packaged goods, sold in boxes, to “always on” digital services, requiring sophisticated server-based infrastructure to host and operate,' explains co-founder Gwertzman in PlayFab's own announcement. 'Built well, these backend systems enabled games to engage, retain, and monetise players like never before, with longevity in the top grossing charts measured in years. Built poorly, they crashed and burned on launch day.
'We’re proud of the role that PlayFab has played helping developers of all sizes step up to this new challenge. Our platform of scalable game services, game analytics, and LiveOps tools are helping more than 3,000 studios progress from shipping static software to creating games that scale gracefully and evolve over time with new content, live events, and frequent updates. Today we power more than 1,200 live games, and have served over 700 million players. We process more than 1.5 billion transactions a day, nearly 20,000 transactions a second. Our technology is used by some of the biggest entertainment companies, including Disney, NBC Universal, Wizards of the Coast, Nickelodeon, Bandai Namco, Rovio, and Capcom, as well as fast-growing indies like Fluffy Fairy, Nvizzio, and Hyper Hippo.'
The PlayFab acquisition is unlikely to be the last Microsoft makes in a renewed push to take over a bigger share of the gaming market than is afforded to it by its Xbox console arm. 'We’re mobilising to pursue our extensive opportunity in a 100-plus-billion gaming market,' chief executive Satya Nadella claimed during the company's most recent annual shareholders meeting. 'This means broadening our approach to how we think about gaming end to end, about starting with games and how they’re creating and distributed, and how they’re played and viewed.'