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Kolibri Games optimizing games for millions with the cloud

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Mobile gaming studio Kolibri Games has been developing and offering free games for smartphones since 2016. The company focuses on interaction with players and strives to incorporate their feedback and ideas into its games. When it comes to building that into the weekly schedule, speed is the name of the game, which is why the company has used the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to develop and update its products since the day it was founded. By using the cloud, the young company can learn quickly from players and implement the insights just as fast, which lets the team ensure they always provide the best gaming experience.

The challenge: Quickly roll out updates for millions of players
Kolibri Games was founded by four students at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in 2016. Even though the founders no longer have an operational involvement in the business and a new generation is ready to take the company forward, the mission remains the same: to offer players mobile games as a service. Unlike other game developers, Kolibri Games doesn't just publish its games and watch what happens. This gaming studio is constantly enhancing, improving, and updating its products to provide the ultimate gaming experience and ensure new content is added frequently. 

Since its release in July 2016, Kolibri Games' first title, Idle Miner Tycoon, has already undergone some 260 updates at weekly intervals. Due to the high expectations of customers in the mobile gaming sector, the company is set to continue with this schedule in the future. Often, games manage a life cycle of only a few months before a popular newcomer hits the app stores. That means if a game is developed based on a current trend, its release needs to be fast. Speed really is of the essence—for the game's development, its release, and for updates. 

To keep up with the pace, Kolibri Games has relied on cloud-based solutions from the very beginning. The basis for the optimization of all its games has always been Microsoft Azure. And with good reason. For one thing, the company's entire account management system was already set up for Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory. "The way they're designed mean Azure and Microsoft 365 can be highly integrated, which makes it much easier to manage things like access and accounts," says Christian Saaler, Director of Engineering Platform & IT Services at Kolibri Games. "Another reason is that you can really feel how focused Microsoft is on the product—there are so many new things to discover almost every day." When PlayFab, a back-end platform for live games, merged with Microsoft in 2018, it, too, was based on Azure. This reaffirmed Kolibri Games' confidence in the cloud platform. "Having everything running in Azure from that point on meant we could better optimize certain things and it helped improve our understanding of the PlayFab infrastructure," explains Jonas Hartmann, Vice President Engineering at Kolibri Games. "It also allowed us to better adapt our games to the infrastructure." Azure paved the way for the company to grow quickly in its first few years, while being more agile and providing gamers the best possible gaming experience. Now the focus is on keeping the players on their toes. 

Thanks to Microsoft Azure, we can focus on our real passion: game development. At the same time, it allows us to grow quickly, offer players a better gaming experience, and keep our finger on the pulse—all with just a small team. 

Jonas Hartmann: Vice President Engineering

Kolibri Games

The solution: Own tool design and data collection
Kolibri Games is set on expanding the games it offers. At the moment, it has four up and running through Azure and many more in the pipeline waiting to be integrated into Azure and PlayFab. Things are heading in the right direction as the company develops more games and grows its portfolio. With Azure and its scalability and flexibility, Kolibri Games now has more scope and creativity to develop and improve on successful games. Thanks to Cloud Services, the games go live quickly and have just as much potential for expansion as their forerunners.

That's also the reason the company set up a new internal platform dedicated to data last year. Again, it uses several Azure technologies to this end, including Snowflake as a data warehouse, Azure Databricks, Azure Data Lake, and Event Hubs. Kolibri Games hopes this will enable it to gain deeper insights into its players' behavior to use as a basis for improving its games. It collects, aggregates, and analyzes data, which now provides answers to a whole host of questions, such as "How was the first gaming experience?", "Where do the players run into problems?", and "Will you play again or not?". "If players stop at a certain point and don't or can't play on, it's often because there's a problem that needs optimization," Hartmann says. "But to identify these issues, we need data in the form of the best and most honest feedback we can get."

Azure also paved the way for Kolibri Games to make another big change: setting up new custom applications. "We came to a point where we needed to fine-tune the gaming experience to make sure it's engaging and unique for all players," Hartmann says. "Someone who plays, say, every day needs a different experience than somebody who plays only every now and again. It's precisely these kinds of considerations that the game must be able to adapt to in real time." Kolibri Games developed its own user interface and LiveOps, integrating them into Azure. "The big advantage of Azure is that everything is there, so I can get started right away without having to set up a structure for it or anything first. This means we can operate in an agile manner," Hartmann explains. That means generic services are now a thing of the past; instead, Kolibri Games' extended LiveOps can now dock directly to the selected points in the game and rules. "What's great about having our own digital tools for certain functions is that it gives us more scope for our games and enables us to dive deeper," Saaler adds. "That's all thanks to Azure, which gives us full control over the management of our infrastructure and the entire life cycle of our applications."

Growth with Azure brought with it another big advantage: it helped the startup stand out in a crowded market of game developers and become a market leader, in turn generating interest from major competitors. After just five years in the business, Kolibri Games was absorbed by gaming giant Ubisoft. "It's not just our passion for games that connects us with Ubisoft; we're also on the same wavelength when it comes to technology," Saaler says. Kolibri Games' partner also uses Azure and PlayFab on a wide scale, and the companies plan to continue their journey with Microsoft and Azure together in the future. "Azure is the solution we started out with and the foundation on which everything is based," says Saaler to summarize. "Essentially, we always find solutions in Azure. It has everything you need. Why would we look to change that?"

The cloud has helped us not only to grow, but also to evolve and transform. "We used to work with generic, out-of-the-box solutions. Now we develop our own tools. 

Christian Saaler: Director of Engineering – Platform & IT-Services

Kolibri Games

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