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Microsoft’s ID@Azure is a big win for indie developers on Xbox Series X and PS5

Microsoft has launched ID@Azure, a new program aimed specifically at helping independent game developers take advantage of the cloud. The program should allow participants to develop faster, work smarter, and have access to expert support – no matter what platform they’re working on, be it Xbox Series X or PS5

The program will offer tools to developers who sign up and allows smaller studios to access the same services and capabilities used by larger teams. Popular games such as No Man’s Sky, Rainbow Six Siege, and Sea of Thieves all rely on Azure – Microsoft’s in-house cloud computing service – to reach millions of players every day, so granting smaller studios access to these powerful tools is certainly exciting.

Microsoft hopes that ID@Azure will encourage independent developers to implement cloud services into a development cycle, which can be as simple as creating online leaderboards or used to gather real-time player data which may improve a game’s design. Essentially, it’s intended to empower more indie devs to make better games and realize their vision.

With some of the biggest games coming from independent developers in recent years, such as Tunic, Stardew Valley, Cuphead, and Hades, more available resources and tools can only be a good thing for the industry. 

The cloud can also help provide solutions for teams who work together from numerous geographic locations, as well as facilitate hybrid working, which Microsoft believes is here to stay. The pandemic has led to a clear shift in game development, so having a powerful tool that enables online collaboration and scalable environments is more necessary than ever. 

Analysis: could the cloud address ‘crunch’?

Potentially, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, known as the Azure Game Development Virtual Machine, could address ‘crunch’, an all too common problem in the video games industry where teams are overworked due to the need to hit encroaching deadlines. By having studios located around the world and using the cloud, everyone can access the same powerful tools, and there can be a constant workflow. It means that tasks that might fall on one team can be accomplished in other time zones while they get their hard-earned rest.

Cloud gaming has risen to prominence in the last few years, allowing games to be played on multiple devices. Services such as Nvidia GeForce Now, Stadia, Luna, and Microsoft’s own Xbox Cloud Gaming allow subscribers to play games using the power of the cloud and continue to offer a viable alternative to consoles and high-end PCs.

While the impact of ID@Azure won’t be felt by gamers in the short term, there’s no doubt that games from independent developers could become even more ambitious in the future thanks to Microsoft’s new program.

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