Microsoft buys PlayFab, a multiplatform back-end for online games

You might have heard the news that Microsoft could be looking to buy someone, anyone, just to fill in the void that is the Xbox 2018 lineup. Today the company announced the acquisition of PlayFab, a back-end services company that provides multi-platform multiplayer services and data analytics to game companies, and it just so happens that Microsoft would be an ideal partner thanks to its role as both the curator of Minecraft and the company backing Azure, a cloud services provider that also wants to gain some customers from the gaming industry. As a component of Microsoft Azure, PlayFab could be a strong play for Microsoft, and it may attract developers to its Xbox One platform first, especially if they were initially thinking of going multi-platform one day.

According to PlayFab’s press release, the company’s founders had envisioned playing a significant role in the industry, working to help developers and publishers figure out the nuances of digital delivery. Their customers include the likes of SEGA, Wizards of the Coast, 505 Games , Bandai Namco, CAPCOM, Tripwire Interactive, and Rovio Studios, among others. Their services range from player management, commerce, leaderboards, and A/B testing, in addition to things like messaging, facilitating in-game events and promotions, and data analytics.

“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,” writes co-founder James Gwertzman. “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.”

Microsoft’s reasons for buying PlayFab extends to more than just running games, however. The company typically makes acquisitions these days for access to skills and technology that could be used in very different ways for their customers. They’ve made several investments in companies working with VR gaming in the last few years, and this has all added up to their offering in Windows 10 Holographic and its Mixed Reality features. PlayFab’s technology won’t just help make sense of multiplayer games and the data they generate, but it’ll also have parts of it that are applicable to businesses and corporations that need efficient reports and analytics, and better control over back-end services for thousands of users. A separate release about the acquisition appeared on Microsoft’s blog.

“PlayFab’s backend services reduce the barriers to launch for game developers, offering both large and small studios cost-effective development solutions that scale with their games and help them engage, retain and monetize players,” writes Microsoft’s corporate vice president of gaming, Kreem Choudhry. “PlayFab enables developers to use the intelligent cloud to build and operate games, analyze gaming data and improve overall gaming experiences.”

“The PlayFab platform is a natural complement to Azure for gaming. 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.”

It’s anyone’s guess how this deal will affect the ones that PlayFab has ongoing with their existing customers, but it’ll definitely get publishers like Bandai Namco and CAPCOM to look into Microsoft Azure more deeply. As it is, the industry is almost dominated by Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft feels that it has more to offer for the gaming industry than Amazon does.