Microsoft Drops Into Social Gaming From the Cloud

Published on July 21, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

Microsoft has figured out a way to get into the social games business without having to make a single game.

The company instead is focusing on building tools to help other game developers get up and running quickly. In return for the assistance, the game developers must host their games on Windows Azure, which is the name of Microsoft’s cloud technology.

Today, Amazon hosts many online games, including big Facebook games, developed by Zynga and others.

The benefit to using the cloud to host your game is that it can ramp up quickly if you see a huge spike in activity, and then scale back down, so you aren’t overpaying for equipment you aren’t using.

While Microsoft hosts some social games in the cloud already, this program is obviously trying to ramp up that business. This week at Casual Connect in Seattle, Microsoft launched a toolkit for developers, which provides the basic code for a number of back-end game technologies that all game developers typically must build, but don’t really want to spend a lot of time creating.

Among the components included are ways to track player achievements, ways to keep score, and guidance for using Facebook credits to monetize a game. The tools also show developers how to store user profiles and charge for in-app purchase. All the code and APIs are provided free, so developers can jump in at any level and get up and running in a short period of time, said Nathan Totten, a technical evangelist, who worked on the project.

To make the experience extremely easy, Microsoft even created a game with the help of Grant Skinner, a well-known developer in the space, to demonstrate how it all works. The game is called Tankster, which is online for anyone to play. The game includes messaging, wall posts and comments, and player achievements and game stats are presented on a leaderboard.

More information can be found online here.

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