Microsoft Buys Havok Tech For Games, Will Continue Licensing For PlayStation And Nintendo

Scott Grill - Author

Oct. 4 2015, Updated 3:57 p.m. ET

Havok is the leading provider of 3D physics for video games and nearly ubiquitous across the AAA titles in the industry. Microsoft announced the purchase of the company from Intel on Friday with plans to integrate the technology into its existing suite of development tools such as DirectX 12.

“Havok is an amazing technology supplier in the games industry and the leading real-time physics creator,” Microsoft wrote on its official Blog. “We saw an opportunity to acquire Havok to deliver great experiences for our fans. Throughout the company’s history, they’ve partnered with Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and many others to create more than 600 games including Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls, and The Elder Scrolls.”

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“Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world. We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners. Part of this innovation will include building the most complete cloud service, which we’ve just started to show through games like Crackdown 3.”

Crackdown 3 provided an impressive demonstration of destruction during the Gamescom convention in Germany this past August. Cloudgine’s Dave Jones was present to give multiple demonstrations of the game using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Servers to shoot holes in walls and drop entire buildings to the ground while using the “power of the cloud” to take the load off the console running the game.

A multiplayer version of the game is scheduled to be released in the Summer of 2016 with a full release later in the year. The developer still has much work to do to develop a game around the destruction, but it is one of the most next-gen features we’ve seen out of either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 so far.

The Havok business model offers a number of middleware products to game developers and animators to simulate physics. This includes everything from collision detection with characters and objects to simulating real cloth to AI simulation for character navigation.

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The announcement that Microsoft was purchasing Havok naturally led to concern that the company would keep these products to itself for the Xbox and Windows platforms and lock out the rest of the industry, most notably the competition from PlayStation and Nintendo consoles. That’s not the case, however.

“We will continue to license Havok’s technology to the broad AAA games industry,” a Microsoft representative told IGN. “This also means that we will continue to license Havok’s technology to run across various game consoles including Sony and Nintendo.”

The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. However, Havok was purchased by Intel in 2007 for $110 million. It’s likely the acquisition price was much higher, as the middleware company has become even more entrenched in the industry since then with more than 600 games using at least one of the company’s modules.

Meanwhile, the purchase should be a boon for Havok. Microsoft has a vested interest in growing support for the development of games along with a wide suite of tools including DirectX 12, the Azure Cloud, and Visual Studio. Chipmaker Intel did not have as much of an interest, at least from a software and console side, of growing the Havok business.

The interesting thing to watch out for will be to see how Microsoft licenses the various Havok modules in the future. There are obvious benefits to encouraging developers to develop more for the Windows 10 platform that includes the PC and Xbox console as well as tablets and phones. How much encouragement remains to be seen.

What do you think of Microsoft’s purchase of Havok? Sound off in the comments below.


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