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Introducing ID@Azure: Your Journey in the Cloud Starts Today

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Today we are announcing the launch of ID@Azure, a new program Microsoft has launched to help independent game developers and creators use the cloud. This program offers free tools, resources, and support to quickly get started using gaming cloud services, regardless of the end platform developers are targeting.

We launched into an invitation-only Closed Beta in December. Since then, we've been listening continuously to developer feedback through one-to-one meetings, email, and survey feedback. I'm pleased to announce that we're expanding to General Availability today.

ID@Azure was created using the same philosophy as ID@Xbox, which means that our focus is on how to empower and enable developers, specifically with aspirations to use cloud gaming services. We want you to be successful, because we know that working with cloud opens a lot of possibilities for the development of your game.

The goal of ID@Azure is to empower independent developers. We want you to take advantage of the same services and capabilities used by large teams building some of the most popular games today, many of which are powered by Azure to reach millions of players:

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Some of the games that are using Azure today. No matter how big the industry gets, it is important to remember that most of these games were built by a studio that started out as an independent developer.

Microsoft created ID@Azure because we see the huge benefits that cloud brings to the games industry, and our goal is to help extend those benefits to smaller studios and the independent developer community.

Why Cloud?

Perhaps you're a developer wondering "Why?" Why should you care about cloud, or want to get involved?

At Microsoft, our mission in gaming is "To bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet". And the promise we make to players is to "Play the games you want, with the people you want, anywhere you want".

That sounds fantastic, right? But in a world where players have access to more games on more platforms than ever before, we know that delivering on this promise poses challenges for developers. For people to play any game on any device, developers need the right tools to build games that are playable across those devices. Cloud is a crucial part of how we deliver that, whether it is the backend components that power an increasing number of gaming experiences, or the technology that gets your games into the hands of more players.

What can Azure do for you? When we talk about cloud services at ID@Azure, we take a solutions-focused approach. This means that we're thinking about the various challenges that developers face day-to-day. At Microsoft, we are uniquely positioned to understand the challenges facing game creators today. With 23 first-party studios, we can build, iterate, and test games every day on our global platform to make Azure better while also listening to the needs of our creator community to see what we can improve. With Azure, we help you reduce the risk, learn to accelerate, and grow your audience more than you thought you could without the cloud.

Solutions that will help include managing distributed development with remote team members, running multiplayer services for a cross-play, cross-platform game, analysing game data to improve your difficulty balancing, or working out how to make your online community as inclusive as possible by using speech-to-text or automatic translation services. The net result of using Azure should be a significant gain in flexibility and scalability, which reduces your costs and speeds up your development, all while improving your players' overall experience.

ID@Azure exists because all these solutions and technology don't matter if you aren't able to use them to build and scale your game.

"ID@Azure's team has been really helpful in getting our start-up phase studio set up on the platform! It's great to know we have a wide range of tools available to us through ID@Azure that can not only help smaller studios be more competitive, but can also scale alongside us as we grow!"

  • Josh Hughes, President at Add-A-Tudez Entertainment Company

 

ID@Azure Program Benefits

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With ID@Azure, we created a program to help encourage independent developers to start using cloud services early in their development cycle. We strongly believe that the efficiencies gained from using cloud services have a force multiplier effect the earlier you start using them in development.

Develop Faster

Historically, one barrier has been cost, as it can be challenging to commit to using paid services – no matter how useful – when your game is still months or years from completion, and you may be working without any revenue coming into your business.

To address that, our first program pillar is Develop Faster as we are providing ID@Azure program members with access to powerful services like Azure and PlayFab.

We're offering program members up to $5,000 in Azure credits. All developers are eligible for an initial amount of $500, with the opportunity to access more in the future as we start working together, and we learn more about the game you're looking to build. For more information about how to use these Azure credits for cloud development please read this blog post.

We're also offering developers access to PlayFab Standard Plan for up to two years. This typically costs $99 per month and includes $400 of monthly meters over PlayFab's Free To Start pricing plan. In addition to the benefits of the Standard Plan, ID@Azure members also get free access to various PlayFab services including PlayFab Party Networking, Party Voice & Chat, PlayFab Matchmaking, and PlayFab Lobby. The service allowances we are offering are extremely generous and have been benchmarked against the usage we've seen in some of the most successful titles we have on PlayFab today. The net result is that we expect these PlayFab services to be free for 95% of Multiplayer games and for the vast majority of ID@Azure members.  For more detailed information about the specific PlayFab benefits please read this blog post.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The second pillar in the ID@Azure program is helping developers to Work Smarter, Not Harder. Game developers are really good at working hard to solve problems, but sometimes there are easier ways to get things done, or alternative approaches which can take some of the burden from your development team and put it on our services. Helping developers work smarter means providing them with access to curated resources to help use Azure, regardless of their level of experience using cloud services.

The ID@Azure Education Portal contains materials that explain what is possible and how to get started quickly for developers new to cloud, and detailed information about our services, including reference architectures and how to build new products natively on Azure for developers with more experience. Our goal is to enable developers to quickly understand what is possible and provide you with the tools and information so that you can self-serve and be successful.

"Moving to Azure has given us extra peace of mind and security. Azure is certainly more user friendly than some of its competitors and the ID@Azure Education Portal has a lot of useful documentation and case studies. ID@Azure has been great so far!"

 —Kieran Keegan, Technical Director at Variable State

Support Along the Way

The final pillar of ID@Azure is Support along the way. We are committed to helping support you on your cloud development journey. We know that game developers are experts at figuring things out on their own, but we also know that browsing documentation and working things out by trial-and-error isn't always the best experience. To help developers make progress quickly and avoid downtime we're making it easy for ID@Azure program members to connect with the cloud experts at Microsoft who can help you.

ID@Azure members have 24/7 support from Azure experts via our Azure Rapid Response package, with access to support engineers via email and phone. In addition, ID@Azure members also get access to ticketed PlayFab support, direct from the PlayFab team. Finally, we also host regular weekly "Office Hours" sessions where ID@Azure members can connect with our team in a video call and ask them specific questions and talk through what is on their mind. Finally, we are also hosting "Expert Sessions" where Microsoft experts dive deeply into a specific product or service to share learnings. Whether you have early questions about how to approach a new workload, or if you're looking for specific guidance on an existing solution, our Azure Gaming experts are available to help and supply suggestions and guidance.

Apply and Get Access

So how do you apply? You can apply to ID@Azure by visiting azure.com/ID. Complete our short application form which asks for some basic information, including contact details, information about your studio, and your project. Once we get that application, you should expect to hear from us within a few business days. 

Once you are accepted onto the ID@Azure program, we'll give you access to our Developer Hub. This is the one stop shop for everything you need to know about ID@Azure.

"We really appreciate the support we got from the ID@Azure team when onboarding, particularly around resolving some complicated account issues. We're still early in our Azure journey but looking forward to exploring everything the program has to offer in the future."

-           Maurice Sibrandi, CTO & Co-founder at Codeglue

The Road Ahead

This is just the beginning for ID@Azure.

We're expanding to General Availability today and we're really interested to hear from you about what's good, what's bad and what might be missing from the program. Our goal is to build the best destination for any developer looking to get the most out of cloud tech. We received very positive feedback from the developers who participated in our Closed Beta, and we're looking forward to working with many more developers as the program expands and helping them to realise their potential with cloud gaming services.

In the games industry, so much innovation is driven by independent developers. We can't wait to see what you can do with the tools we're providing through ID@Azure. I don't know what it is, but I'm sure it will be awesome!

www.azure.com/ID

Closed Beta Developer Testimonials

 

"ID@Azure's team has been really helpful in getting our start-up phase studio set up on the platform! It's great to know we have a wide range of tools available to us through ID@Azure that can not only help smaller studios be more competitive, but can also scale alongside us as we grow!"

  • Josh Hughes, President at Add-A-Tudez Entertainment Company

 

"We've had an excellent experience with ID@Azure so far and have already had some interesting discussions with the team. The program has given us the chance to experiment with cloud services which we wouldn't have previously explored - we're particularly excited with the potential of PlayFab, and are in the process of implementing some of its features into one of our projects."

  • Nathan Beardmore, Co-founder & Lead Developer at Centrifuge

 

"We really appreciate the support we got from the ID@Azure team when onboarding, particularly around resolving some complicated account issues. We're still early in our Azure journey but looking forward to exploring everything the program has to offer in the future."

-           Maurice Sibrandi, CTO & Co-founder at Codeglue

 

"As a smaller studio, our experience with the ID@Azure Closed Beta has been incredibly helpful and valuable. We have gotten help to resolve issues we had a hard time solving before. Joining the Beta empowers us to focus on what we do best while the cloud services power our upcoming project at Fast Travel Games."

  • Kristoffer Benjaminsson, CTO & Co-founder at Fast Travel Games

 

"We're excited ID@Azure is making it easier for small development teams to pursue more ambitious online designs. Free access to PlayFab and Azure services has unlocked multiplayer, cloud and social game concepts we may not have pursued otherwise. The team has been great to work with and access to technical experts at Microsoft is an underrated benefit."

  • Scott Brodie, Founder & CEO at Heart Shaped Games

 

"We've found that the ID@Azure team is always happy to help and have useful insights to assist us with our needs and plans, and we are eager to utilize their knowledge into an amazing product with great infrastructure!"

  • Eden Poran, Co-founder & VP Technology at Muuula Games

 

"ID@Azure has been helping our little game studio achieve our ambitions. We have always wanted to build a player driven economy that crosses our games. Thanks to ID@Azure and Playfab, we can unite them by having common cloud assets that span the boundaries of gaming platforms."

  • Dave Stevens, Technical Director at Raging Rickshaw

 

"ID@Azure has been great for us at Sharkmob. It has helped us accelerate some of the early development in terms of cloud architecture and deployment, as well as increase the confidence in our designs. The team at ID@Azure has been super responsive and prompt with our questions and requests - we have been really impressed with the service."

  • Sergio Franco, Technical Director at Sharkmob London

 

"We've signed up to the ID@Azure Closed Beta and have been impressed by how helpful the team have been. We're still at a very early stage with our new project but there's an extensive range of features that we think could be a massive help for us."

- Mark Backler, CEO at Sketchbook Games

 

"ID@Azure further confirms our choice to switch our infrastructure to the Microsoft cloud. It's a great service that helps us navigate this vast ecosystem and enables us to do outstanding tech with a relatively small team.  Especially with our Homeworld Mobile launch coming up, we are happy about their support and the team at ID@Azure is doing a fantastic job." – Kristian Metzger, CEO at Stratosphere Games

 

"ID@Azure is a great way for indies to get started with cloud services and the team has been very helpful and responsive to my questions. Using Azure has allowed me to write server code that scales as needed, and the costs scale as well so I only pay for what I'm using."

- Dan Ericson, SuperRetroMaker.com

 

ID@Azure has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and gave us the resources we needed to make these features a reality.  Having ID@Azure in our corner puts the cloud easily within reach!

- Derek Johnson, Founder at Thorium Entertainment

 

"Moving to Azure has given us extra peace of mind and security. Azure is certainly more user friendly than some of its competitors and the ID@Azure Education Portal has a lot of useful documentation and case studies. ID@Azure has been great so far!"

 —Kieran Keegan, Technical Director at Variable State

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