Photo of Azure booth at GDC

Highlights from Microsoft at GDC 2018

It was an energizing few days at the 2018 Game Developers Conference. We come to GDC every year to inspire game developers and gamers alike to achieve more, and this year we shared new innovations, from cloud gaming to PC graphics enhancements, for developers of all sizes.

At Microsoft, we’re incredibly passionate about the gaming industry. With more than 35 years of history in gaming, we take our role as stewards of the industry very seriously and with much care. As the industry is growing to include more players, viewers and developers on a global scale, our vision is to support every modern facet of our medium to move it forward – from creation and distribution, to playing, streaming, learning, and inclusivity.

At GDC this year Microsoft held more than 20 hours of developer-focused content, and more than 20 specialists shared their expertise across 13 sponsored sessions. I loved seeing how all of us – our amazing customers, partners, and Microsoft – show up and show off what we’re most passionate about! It was great to see, for the first time at GDC, the Azure booth, which included Mixer live-streamed battle royale action in the brand-new game Darwin Project. It was also awesome to visit the PlayFab booth in its first year as part of the Microsoft family. Throughout the week, amazing partners that are already taking advantage of Azure and PlayFab services also joined in a few of our developer talks, including the brilliant folks from Next Games and Fluffy Fairy.

Gaming Cloud Development

An exciting part of GDC this year was sharing our powerful cloud services and tools that help developers build games, faster, and then easily monetize them. We hosted a number of sessions about what Azure can do for game developers and gamers alike. We also had a fun-filled booth. We hosted intense 10-player battle royale clashes with Darwin Project that included audience interaction through Mixer, complete with a shoutcaster moderating and streaming the action live. There were free custom Xbox controller giveaways and daily giveaway opportunities for an Xbox One X. The GDC attendees who stopped by the booth also got to test out a new mixed reality game demo, Pinball Lizard, and take home the sample source code.

In celebration of PlayFab’s joining the Microsoft family, game developers could take advantage of a special $2,500 worth offer of PlayFab, App Center, and Azure services free for a year. Developers also received free copies of our brand-new book “The PlayFab Definitive Guide to LiveOps”, which introduces LiveOps, covers a detailed compilation of LiveOps techniques, and lists the LiveOps tools and services PlayFab offers.

At the core of all this stands our Visual Studio family of products, enabling developers to be productive whether they’re joining the existing userbase of over half a million active developers creating games on Visual Studio (across PC, Mac, and Linux) with a choice of a variety of game engines, or optimizing their development process with Visual Studio Team Services and Visual Studio App Center. It was great to connect with so many developers about how they’re using the Visual Studio family of products today and are planning to do so in the future to create the next wave of games.

Cutting Edge Graphics and AI Innovation with DirectX 12

On Monday, we unveiled two new state-of-the-art technical innovations that provide enhanced graphics and AI capabilities: we announced DirectX Raytracing and detailed Windows ML API enhancements for game developers.

DirectX Raytracing enables developers to deliver never-before-seen in-game visuals by using an entirely new approach to simulating light rays. DirectX Raytracing is available for game developers to experiment with now. For more on this deeply technical – but really cool – new technology, check out this DirectX Developer blog post.

I was excited to hear more about AI platform in Windows, and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the special sauce in the WinML API that will transform gaming and game development. We teamed up with NVIDIA to host two talks on Thursday about how developers can use artificial intelligence to improve their games. Refer to this DirectX Developer blog for more details about these exciting new advances.

The State of [email protected]

[email protected] had a significant presence this year, and Chris Charla, Director of [email protected], and the [email protected] team talked with developers and shared their successes with the program – including that nearly 800 games have been released through the program, gamers have spent more than 4 billion hours playing games launched via [email protected], and that the program has generated more than one billion dollars in revenue on Xbox and Windows 10. If one thing is clear about [email protected], it’s that it has become a proven program for independent developers to find both creative and commercial success, and it continues to be a community effort, driven by passion, creativity, and the knowledge that success here unlocks huge opportunity for game studios of all sizes. Read more about Chris’ [email protected] state of the union here.

Gaming for Everyone (G4E) Community Events

I’ve been inspired by the events taking place throughout the week that further our commitment to help make our industry a place where everyone has fun. The 18th Annual Women in Gaming Rally was the biggest yet; in partnership with EA and Ubisoft, approximately 750 people attended and participated in workshops, discussions and a reception on Tuesday. We hosted our 1st Annual Gaming & Disability reception focused on making games more accessible, 2nd Annual LGBTQ in Gaming, 13th Annual Blacks in Gaming Green Room, and 3rd Annual Celebrating Latinx in Gaming.

GDC 2018 was motivating, and it’s just the start for much more. Throughout the year, you’ll continue to hear from us on exciting opportunities for developers with our gaming cloud, Azure, PlayFab, [email protected], as well as continued innovation with our latest graphics enhancements. There’s so much more to come, so stay tuned, we’ll be in touch.