Although Microsoft owns Azure and Xbox, in 2016 they did two orders of magnitude less revenue in cloud gaming than Amazon. Senior leadership decided to target the market with a dedicated cloud backend and I joined them to lead the effort.
Having twice before built cloud backends from a diverse set of PaaS and SaaS, I knew that developers like me were suffering from “SDK fatigue” - the seemingly never-ending task of integrating and maintaining all the necessary micro services. What we needed was a single comprehensive solution. A single API, REST based for modularity, that was already integrated with the most popular game engines - Unity, Unreal, CosCos, etc.
The Gaming as a Service (GaaS) would include Thunderhead - a hyperscale multiplayer server orchestration SaaS, and a realtime player analytics data pipeline and business intelligence dashboard that includes identity, eCommerce, server-side game logic, CRM and more.
I led the acquisition of Playfab to jumpstart our strategy. Playfab has the best in class cloud platform in the gaming industry and Azure, with locations in 42 regions worldwide, would provide Playfab with world-class server infrastructure, allowing creators to focus on building great games with best-available global reach. PlayFab is a backend platform provider of services to build, launch and grow cloud-connected games. It has has served more than 70 million gamers and is currently powering more than 1,200 games with companies like Disney, Rovio and Atari.
The result has been the bold entry of Microsoft/Azure into the multibillion dollar GaaS market and for developers, faster innovation and increased monetization in their Live Operations.