Home / Gaming / Microsoft buys Havok physics from Intel, could boost Xbox One cloud gaming

Microsoft buys Havok physics from Intel, could boost Xbox One cloud gaming

For the past decade, many of the most popular video games have used a common physics engine — Havok. While it’s had some competition from competing solutions, like Nvidia’s PhysX, Havok has powered Call of Duty, the Assassin’s Creed series, DOTA 2, and a number of Source-based titles, including Half Life 2 and the Left 4 Dead franchise. Microsoft has now announced that it had acquired Havok from Intel for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the acquisition, Microsoft has agreed to continue licensing Havok to third-parties and competitors, which could be important to the continued success of the middleware engine. Havok has long had a reputation for running on just about every platform known to man, from game consoles to PCs and even smartphones. Microsoft also notes that “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.” Havok has always put a high priority behind supporting the latest family of consoles, as shown below.

We discussed Crackdown 3’s use of remote rendering for multiplayer earlier this year. It’s the first time we’ve seen Microsoft actually take advantage of this feature, which was teased years ago, when the Xbox One first debuted. Buying Havok could mean that MS is serious about finding ways to offload operations into the cloud, but game physics would seem an odd fit for that role. In order to have an impact on gameplay, physics calculations need to occur at extremely low latency — lower, we’d think, than you can reasonably expect if you attempt to offload them to servers halfway across the country.

While it’s not talked about as much in tech circles, Havok also has seen some use in the defense industry, where it powers military simulations. The company signed a 2011 agreement with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) to license its software to the combat vehicle design firm and has a secondary site at HavokSimulation.com where it describes its collaboration with firms like Lockheed-Martin, Corys, Nova Technologies, and Kongsberg.

Kongsberg with Havok Ocean Simulator

Kongsberg with Havok Ocean Simulator

Microsoft’s declaration that it wants to build additional cloud services doesn’t necessarily just mean gaming. It could also refer to highly lucrative defense contracts, which Microsoft might like to convert to Azure customers. Cloud-centric support is key to many of Microsoft’s future plans, so acquiring a physics company with a proven engine could increase the kinds of contracts the software giant can win.

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