Social gamers have been one of the first developer groups to make use of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform.
On July 19, Microsoft took a step to make it easier for social gamers to target Azure by releasing an alpha version of a Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games.
The preview of the toolkit, available for download from Microsoft's CodePlex, includes accelerators, libraries, developer tools, and samples that developers can use in their own .NET or HTML5 games. Other language support will be added in the future, according to a Microsoft Windows Azure blog post.
"The toolkit also enables unique capabilities for social gaming prerequisites, such as storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards, in-app purchasing and so forth," according to information on the download page.
The toolkit preview includes a new proof-of-concept game called Tankster, built with HTML5, from Grant Skinner and his team..
The preview of the new toolkit is free. I've asked Microsoft officials whether it will remain free once it is released (and for a target release date). I'll add that information once I hear back. The toolkit will remain free when it goes final, according to company officials, who declined to provide an ETA as to when that might happen.
The Windows Azure toolkit for social gaming is not meant to replace or supersede the Azure toolkit for Facebook, officials added, when I asked.
Microsoft made the announcement about the new toolkit as the Seattle Casual Connect conference.