Japanese gaming company KMS launched an original game, Otogi Frontier, in 2017. As a new company, it wanted to minimize the need to manage infrastructure, so KMS decided to run its gaming environment on Microsoft Azure and use cloud computing services such as the Web Apps feature of Azure App Service and Azure Monitor. KMS improved its systems reliability, increased agility, reduced costs, and boosted revenue—without worrying about managing infrastructure. The company now focuses more on customer needs and creative game development.
"By using Web Apps, Application Insights, and Azure SQL Database, we save time because we have added development capabilities, minimal infrastructure management, and better team communication—all of which helps us reduce costs." - Kentaro Kajiwara: President and Chief Executive Officer KMS
Launch of a new game offering
KMS started as a media and advertising company with four employees in 2015. It launched its gaming division in 2016 and developed its first original game, Otogi Frontier, with fairy tale–based characters. KMS released the online multiplayer game in 2017, and it already has 1.5 million players.
The company didn't have an infrastructure engineer on staff as it developed the game. As a small company, KMS wanted to minimize its need to hire an engineer and ensure that a wide range of employees could help with infrastructure management. KMS knew that gaming tastes and trends change quickly, and the company wanted to focus its resources on applications and working closely with players.
So, KMS decided to run its games on a cloud platform and began to evaluate possible platform as a service (PaaS) offerings from cloud service providers. In December 2016, as KMS prepared to launch Otogi Frontier in eight months, it sought out an infrastructure that would keep costs low and flexibly handle variable user traffic.
Fast, reliable gaming in the cloud
KMS initially wasn't sure if the Microsoft Azure cloud platform was the right fit. But through careful assessment and close collaboration with a Microsoft technology advisor, KMS found that Azure would be a reliable, cost-effective way to meet its needs. The technology advisor provided consulting, training, and business support, and KMS discovered that it wouldn't need an engineer to handle the application lifecycle.
KMS built its gaming platform on Azure, and the design for its game server architecture is 100 percent PaaS. "Thanks to our advisor's help, we moved to Azure quickly, and it became a very important tool for our business," says Kentaro Kajiwara, President and Chief Executive Officer at KMS. "For us, Azure cloud services equal speed and agility—we can build a production environment in a day."
The company relies on the Web Apps feature of Azure App Service to run the game server and deploy the game's source code. Additionally, the company tracks its application performance with Application Insights, a feature of Azure Monitor. KMS gains quick insight into any low-performing areas and how to remedy them before they become issues that affect a player's experience.
KMS also uses Azure SQL Database for its game database. The company chose a vCore-based purchasing model, which is very cost-effective because the company has flexibility and transparency into what it's paying for and can finely adjust usage. By using SQL Database, KMS can quickly copy its database to analyze user data and complete any maintenance without affecting operations or disrupting the gaming system. "With Azure SQL Database, we perform proactive maintenance behind the scenes, and it's so seamless that our users never know," says Shinsuke Kawakata, Chief Technology Officer at KMS. "We can easily scale up or scale down the database, and there's no downtime."
Cost savings and business growth
KMS avoided the cost of an additional employee to manage infrastructure. For a small company, that equals more resources to invest in games, services, and growth. "By using Web Apps, Application Insights, and Azure SQL Database, we save time because we have added development capabilities, minimal infrastructure management, and better team communication—all of which helps us reduce costs," says Kajiwara.
KMS also joined the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, and the company now sells and delivers Azure to other gaming companies and helps develop its customers' game systems. As a CSP, KMS expanded its business offerings and gained another source of revenue.
"We offer a huge value-add for other game developers and game companies because we ourselves operate in Azure and can provide specialized service," says Kajiwara. "We can quickly understand their problems and use Application Insights to resolve them. This builds trust with our customers, and trust leads to more business."
Focus on creativity, not infrastructure
With a small staff, the company is proud that its employees are multitalented and help with multiple roles. The KMS president and CEO has a sales background and currently manages the company's infrastructure in Azure. "We needed a PaaS solution that would be easy to handle even for someone with very little infrastructure background," says Kawakata. "We chose Azure cloud services because we get that ease of use without sacrificing creative freedom."
Kajiwara believes that it's thanks to support from Microsoft and the advantages of using Azure that the company kept moving forward without infrastructure becoming a blocker. Staff continue to collaborate, pitch in on different business needs, and focus their energies on innovative gaming ideas.
"We want our employees to be confident and playful when creating a service, and part of that means not locking an employee into one role," says Kajiwara. "Boundaries can potentially be blockers to fostering a creative culture and make each of us work in siloed ways. By using Azure, we're not worried about infrastructure, and we can instead focus on coming together as a whole team to develop and operate our gaming services."