Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Microsoft and Amazon compete to lure game developers to the cloud

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Microsoft and Amazon are both appearing at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week with a simple pitch: use our cloud services to build your game. Both companies have fought over the past few years to get companies to move to the cloud, and now the focus is really on game developers amid a pandemic that has challenged game creation standards.

“Every few years, the game industry undergoes a transformation — a reinvention of itself,” said Sarah Bond, corporate vice president of game creator experience and ecosystem at Microsoft. “New platforms and new technologies are giving way to new genres, new gameplay and new IP. Today we are in the midst of one of those transformative moments.”

Amazon agrees. “Game developers are embracing transformation across the industry,” said Chris Lee, chief of game tech services at Amazon.

While Microsoft and Amazon have been trying to entice game developers into their cloud services for years, they’re both making an even bigger push in 2022. Amazon today launched AWS for Games, a collection of AWS services and solutions that will help developers build, test their games. and even grow it. At the same time, Microsoft is launching Azure Game Development Virtual Machine that allows developers to build games on powerful PCs in the cloud.

Some of the games that run on Azure PlayFab.
Image: Microsoft

Game studios both large and small have struggled to switch to remote game production, and in the early days of the pandemic, developers had to learn how to make games from home. That has led to stories of developers lugging home huge gaming PCs and test rigs, a frenetic rush to get developer laptops, or even studios like Bungie rely on Google Stadia to test major game releases such as Destiny 2: The Witch Queen from a distance.

Amazon already offers cloud game development workstations and virtual machines, and Microsoft’s new Azure Game Development Virtual Machine is the company’s own take on game production in the cloud. It is an Azure offering with powerful calculation and graphics processing combined with tools such as Visual Studio, Unreal Engine, Parsec, Blender and many more. Both Microsoft and Amazon offerings are designed for game studios to quickly run powerful PCs in the cloud to develop and test games anywhere.

Amazon is also making it easy for game developers to add its new GameSparks SDK to game clients to handle things like messaging or authentication. AWS GameKit is also launched today as an open-source solution for game developers to add cloud-based features such as game save or achievements to games. Microsoft has similar tools under its Azure PlayFab product, designed specifically for game studios to build and run live games. Some great games like RobloxTom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siegeand owned by Microsoft Minecraft all use PlayFab.

A Bungie developer who works from home.
Image: Bungie

Microsoft is also today launching ID@Azure, designed to entice independent game developers to use the company’s cloud services. ID@Azure includes free tools and resources for independent game developers and even up to $5,000 in Azure credits. Microsoft doesn’t care if developers are building a Nintendo Switch game, something for the PS5 or an Xbox and PC title – the cloud services are there anyway.

All of these announcements come as both Microsoft and Amazon look to further capitalize on game studios moving to the cloud and adopting AI and machine learning. Amazon claims that 90 percent of the largest game companies already build with AWS, while Microsoft points to all of its first-party studio games that now use Azure PlayFab. It seems that the battle for the future of game development is really on.

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