Microsoft's CEO says the biggest game of the year chose its cloud -- here's what really happened

PlayerUnknown's BattlegroundsBluehole‘Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ is the hottest game of the year, and now it’s hosted on Microsoft Azure.
  • Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” the hottest game of 2017, is now running on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
  • However, “PUBG” is still largely using Amazon Web Services, Azure’s biggest rival.
  • Regardless, it could be a big win for Microsoft — the game is a large part of the Xbox One holiday sales push, and now it could help bolster Azure’s appeal to the significant market for video games.

When Microsoft reported earnings last week, CEO Satya Nadella highlighted that “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” — the hottest video game of 2017 — is now using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to power online play.

As Windows Central rightly notes, this is interesting because PUBG had previously disclosed that it was using Amazon Web Services, the $US18 billion cloud computing giant that’s also Microsoft’s biggest rival in the ongoing cloud wars.

“Gaming pushes the boundaries of hardware and software innovation, with some of the most CPU and GPU-intensive applications and content, giving us a huge opportunity in the cloud,” Nadella said during Microsoft’s recent earnings call, citing “PUBG” as an example.

However, we’re hearing that Nadella’s remarks don’t tell the whole story. “PUBG” isn’t leaving the Amazon cloud; most of the game’s databases and back-end services still run on AWS. It’s just that the game has turned to Azure to bolster its infrastructure as it deals with a massive influx of players.

If you haven’t heard yet, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” is a bloody battle royale for Windows PC gamers, where 100 players are dropped onto an island, forced to scavenge supplies and fight to be the last person standing. It’s become a monster hit on the Windows PC, already selling over 13 million copies this year at $US30 a pop.

And Microsoft recently announced a partnership with the game’s developers to bring it to the Xbox One game console by the end of the year, and the Sony PlayStation 4 later, if ever. It was a big win for Microsoft, which expects “PUBG” to be a major reason why people buy the Xbox One over the PlayStation 4 this holiday season.

Crackdown 3Microsoft‘Crackdown 3’ is an exclusive Xbox One game, coming next year. It will use the Microsoft Azure cloud to power its impressive visual effects.

To go back to the cloud for a moment, video games are actually a key battleground in the cloud wars. As Nadella notes, modern video games take immense amounts of processing power to run properly. To meet those needs, titles like “PUBG” are turning to the cloud, where developers can pay-as-you-go for fundamentally unlimited supercomputing power out of these tech titans’ own massive data centres.

Both companies have looked inwards, as they court video game developers to their respective platforms. Microsoft says that “Crackdown 3,” a flagship Xbox One game coming next year, uses the Azure cloud to power its futuristic mayhem.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s $US970 million purchase of video game streaming site Twitch was largely intended to push forward Amazon Web Services, giving developers a way to integrate their games directly with the service. However, “Breakaway,” a game developed in-house by Amazon, was recently put on hiatus to be “reworked.”

Either way, signing up the hottest game of the year, even piecemeal, is a big win for Microsoft Azure. However, when you’re looking at the final scorecard, it’s a big win for AWS, too.

Update: This story was updated at 7:38am PDT to reflect the fact that “PUBG” is still running the vast majority of its services on Amazon Web Services.

Representatives for Microsoft were not immediately available for comment.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.