Playfab is a service for game developers that offers them the resources to support their online games. User login information, account linking, player stats, game saves, and other bits of data that need to be stored in the cloud can be hosted by Playfab and managed with their service. In short, all of the online bits of a game can be handled by Playfab (it's really quite a staggering list of features). The service has over 1,200 games and is responsible for the data of over 700 million individual gamers.
Microsoft's business strategy is expanding their focus on gaming, and the acquisition of the cloud backend company is a logical step for the creators of the Xbox and Windows platforms, serving as a "natural complement" to Microsoft's own Azure for gaming in the words of Corporate Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft Kareem Choudhry. Rather than having to develop their own tools, the acquisition of Playfab will allow them to simply roll the features on offer into their own Azure for gaming platform. This will save developers the potential hassle of sorting out their own hosting and designing online systems from scratch, and it should work out to be much cheaper thanks to the economies of scale a large company can provide - even more so now that Microsoft has snapped them up.
As for Playfab, the company's CEO James Gwertzman wrote a blog post of his own where he briefly went over the history of the company he co-founded with CTO Matt Augustine four years ago. Initially created to accommodate the growing number of online games, Mr. Gwertzman spoke of how an online game with poor backend infrastructure and/or design could result in disaster for the company. (I'm looking at you, Pokémon GO.) Now that they've been picked up by Microsoft, they'll be well on their way to serving far more than the 3,000 developers that they've worked with so far.
What do you think of Microsoft acquiring Playfab? Have you tried Azure for gaming? Do you think the services the acquisition will bring to the table will make for a big improvement? Let us know in the comments below!