Finland is one of the world’s most creative hubs for game development, and Next Games is one of the Finnish gaming companies with big expectations loaded on their shoulders. So far they have launched two mobile games; Compass Point: West and The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, the latter one created in collaboration with AMC, based on the popular TV show The Walking Dead. Azure plays an integral role on the backend of both hit games.
Next Games was founded in 2013 by acclaimed gaming veterans who wanted to create something new for mobile gamers. It takes a lot of courage to start a new business from scratch, but so far Next Games’ both games have received great reviews from players and have performed well. This has enabled Next Games to also grow the company and at the moment they employ over 70 professionals.
When Next Games was kicking off game development, they signed up to Microsoft’s BizSpark program to get business started without heavy cost structures for the backend solutions. “With BizSpark program we could concentrate on the actual game, without thinking of platform cost and functionality”, says Kalle Hiitola, CTO of Next Games. “We got access to the Azure cloud platform for free from Microsoft as part of BizSpark program, and have been very satisfied with its functionality, ease of use and flexibility. If we have any questions, we can contact local Microsoft counterpart who is very responsive”, Hiitola adds.
Mobile gaming is a demanding business also for the cloud platform. It doesn’t matter how good the game is if you have downtime and players cannot access it… That’s why it is important to guarantee the cloud platform functionality, and with Azure we are very good at that.
For Next Games, the local Microsoft counterpart is Partner Evangelist Juhani Vuorio, who has been involved with Next Games since the company started. “Mobile gaming is a demanding business also for the cloud platform. It doesn’t matter how good the game is if you have downtime and players cannot access it. There are a lot of great games out there, so they might give one game only one chance, which has to be used. That’s why it is important to guarantee the cloud platform functionality, and with Azure we are very good at that. Next Games’ The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land and Compass Point: West are available for iOS and Android (Compass Point coming in March for Android), hence Microsoft Azure supports all available platforms and programming languages.
“Launching a game is like premiering a TV-series – only difference is that the game launch is visible in millions of mobile devices instead of televisions. Imagine if the TV sets of each and every home wouldn’t work during the premier. To guarantee a smooth launch, we had a team of professionals from each Azure function Next Games uses in a stand-by during the Walking Dead launch, to guarantee the success from platform point-of-view. And this is a two-way street; we have learned a lot from working with Next Games and developed Azure further”, Vuorio adds.
During its launch week, The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land hit #1 position in 12 countries on the App Store’s free games chart, and topped the charts in staggering 120 countries in strategy games category. It had reached almost ten million downloads already at the end of January. “The launch for service-based games like ours is just a start. The games have to evolve and grow. After launching a game globally, the game team will continue developing new features and content to keep the games fresh. Since we regularly update our games, we really appreciate that with Azure all these changes, bug fixes and enhancements, are implemented quickly and without service breaks”, Kalle Hiitola adds.
Next Games is not stopping here, and we are eagerly waiting what will come out next from one of the most creative gaming companies in the world! – On Azure, of course…