imageSocial applications (games, sharing, and location-based applications and services) are very quickly becoming the most prominent types of applications. These social applications have the potential to grow from a few users to millions of users in an incredibly short period of time, and as such, they need a robust, scalable, and dependable platform on which to run to meet the growing demands of the users.

Social Gaming

In their January 2011 Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Move report, eMarketer predicts that the social gaming market will increase to $1.32 billion in revenues by 2012, up from $856 million in 2010. As the social gaming market continues to grow and become more profitable, many companies are looking to take their games to the next level and platforms to allow them to do it.

If we take the founding principles of Windows Azure (on-demand scalable computing resources, storage, and geographic delivery) and apply them to the needs of social games, we can quickly see how Windows Azure and Social Gaming is a perfect match. Companies like Sneaky Games (the developers of the Facebook fantasy game Fantasy Kingdoms) and Playdom (the makers of Bola Social Soccer, a Facebook, Sonico, and Orkut game with over 5 million users) are already using Windows Azure as their backend platform.

In the next instalment of Canada Does Windows Azure, an ongoing series featuring Canadian developers and their Windows Azure stories, you’ll see how Toronto-based Huge Monster Inc. (Twitter, Facebook), developers of Code of War, designed, developed, and deployed their popular Facebook game using Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games

To make it even easier to develop social games with Windows Azure, the same folks who brought you the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 and iOS have now released a preview of their latest toolkit, the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games.  The toolkit allows you to quickly get started building new social games with Windows Azure.  It includes accelerators, libraries, developer tools, and samples. It also has specific services and code to handle capabilities unique to games, such as storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards, in-app purchasing, and so forth.

Tankster

As a starting point, the toolkit also includes the source code for a game called Tankster, created by Grant Skinner and his team at gskinner.com. The game is built with HTML5 and comes complete with reusable service-side code and documentation.  It also supports a variety of social interactions including messaging, wall posts, and comments while player achievements and game stats are presented on a live leaderboard so gamers can interact with each other.

Try your skills at a round of Tankster >>

Next Steps

So what’s next?

Download the toolkit >>

Then have a look at the samples and Tankster.

Deep dive into the architecture behind Tankster - Part 1 >> Part 2 >>

If you’ve previously developed a game, see how you can overlay the functionality provided by the toolkit onto your game. If the toolkit doesn’t fit with your game, no worries. Think about your game’s architecture and where you can leverage Windows Azure’s on-demand compute, storage, and geographic delivery services to get your game in the Cloud. Either way, take this opportunity to see how you, too, can leverage the benefits of Windows Azure. If you don’t have an existing game, now’s the best time to sit down and design one!