Microsoft gives more weight to gaming plans with physics engine acquisition

Purchase of Havok from Intel will boost cloud offering and more

While much of Microsoft's pitch for Windows 10 has been focused on everyday consumers and business users, the company has also taken the opportunity to push its new operating system on another key demographic for the company: video game fans. 

Xbox chief Phil Spencer told an audience at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year that the new OS is designed to be the best release for gamers. It's packed with features like a new Xbox app, the ability to record and share gameplay through Xbox Live, and more. Those initiatives are a key push for the company amid a rough-and-tumble gaming market with a lot of competitive players. Now, Microsoft is throwing more money behind its gaming ambitions with a new acquisition. 

The company announced Friday morning that it has acquired Havok, the makers of a popular 3D physics engine, from Intel. Havok's engine is best known for powering the physics inside popular video games including those from the "Call of Duty" and "Halo" franchises. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Over the course of its existence, Havok has worked with a wide variety of technology and gaming companies including Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft will continue licensing Havok's software to other companies as part of the deal, which is good news for those companies that rely on the engine to power their experiences.

As part of the acquisition, Microsoft will be leveraging Havok to build out its cloud services offerings, though it's not clear exactly what form that will take.  

It will be interesting to see what the acquisition of Havok will do for Microsoft's ambitions in the gaming market overall. Right now, the company's Xbox One has been trailing Sony's PlayStation 4 in terms of console market share, and that trend doesn't seem slated to reverse itself any time soon. If Havok can work with Microsoft to create new whiz-bang experiences for its console (or perhaps the company's HoloLens augmented reality headgear), that might provide the company an edge going forward.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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