Microsoft and Amazon battle to attract game developers to the cloud

Microsoft and Amazon are both coming to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week with a simple pitch: Use our cloud services to build your game. and now the focus is really on game developers during a pandemic that has challenged the standards of game creation.

“Every few years, the gaming industry undergoes a transformation — a reinvention of itself,” says Sarah Bond, vice president of game creator experience and ecosystem at Microsoft. “New platforms and new technologies are opening up new genres, new gameplay and new IPs. Today we are in the midst of one of those transformative moments.

Amazon agrees. “Game developers are embracing an industry-wide transformation,” said Chris Lee, head of gaming technology services at Amazon.

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

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

Game studios big and small struggled to switch to remote game production, and at the start of the pandemic, developers had to learn how to make games from home. This has led to stories of developers hauling massive gaming PCs and test rigs home, a frantic rush to get developer laptops, or even studios like Bungie relying on Google Stadia. to test large versions of games like Destiny 2: The Witch Queen from a distance.

Amazon already offers cloud game development desktops and virtual machines, and Microsoft’s new Azure game development virtual machine is the company’s own take on cloud game production. It’s an Azure offering that includes powerful computing and graphics processing combined with tools like Visual Studio, Unreal Engine, Parsec, Blender, and more. Microsoft and Amazon’s offerings are designed so game studios can quickly spin up powerful PCs in the cloud to develop and test games from 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 launching today as an open-source solution for game developers to add cloud-based features such as game saves or achievements to games. Microsoft offers similar tools in its Azure PlayFab product, designed specifically for game studios to create and run live games. Some great games like Roblox, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siegeand owned by Microsoft Minecraft all use PlayFab.

A Bungie developer working from home.
Image: Bungie

Microsoft is also launching [email protected] today, designed to inspire independent game developers to use the company’s cloud services. [email protected] includes free tools and resources for indie game developers and even up to $5,000 in Azure credits. Microsoft doesn’t care whether developers are making a Nintendo Switch game, something for the PS5, or an Xbox and PC title – the cloud services are there regardless.

All of these announcements come as Microsoft and Amazon seek to further capitalize on game studios’ migration to the cloud and adoption of AI and machine learning. Amazon says 90% of top game companies already build with AWS, while Microsoft says all of its first-party studio games now use Azure PlayFab. It looks like the battle for the future of game development is truly on.

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