The Xbox One may not be as powerful as the PlayStation 4 but Microsoft has a secret weapon, 300,000 servers that will add a processing power punch to Xbox Live and provide additional compute power to consoles when they need it most.
The Xbox Live servers, or shall we say "cloud" service is capable of offering computing assistance to the console in latency insensitive scenarios, leaving the latency sensitive things like graphics to the local hardware.
It's unclear exactly how much performance this could offer but as we've seen with services like Onlive and Gai-Kai this could certainly do a lot and let’s not forget who owns the Gai-Kai service, Sony! This is effectively Microsoft's way of butting heads with Sony on the cloud battlefield and it will be interesting to see firstly what Microsoft can do with this service, but also what Microsoft can do against the Sony cloud services, whatever they may be.
Several things need to be in place of course, one would be a good internet connection and the other would be software from developers that need the service, but also a redundancy for those who don't have internet connections or want to use this service, perhaps it could be used to offer computer performance boost for the multiplayer components of certain games?
"Things that I would call latency-sensitive would be reactions to animations in a shooter, reactions to hits and shots in a racing game, reactions to collisions. Those things you need to have happen immediately and on frame and in sync with your controller. There are some things in a video game world, though, that do not necessarily need to be updated every frame or don't change that much in reaction to what's going on," said Matt Booty, general manager of Redmond game studios and platforms at Microsoft to ArsTechnica
"Game developers have always had to wrestle with levels of detail... managing where and when you show details is part of the art of games. One of the exciting challenges going forward is a whole new set of techniques to manage what is going to be offloaded to the cloud and what’s going to come back,” said the head of Redmond game studios and platforms.
[…] It is a new technology and a new frontier for game design, and we’re going to see that evolve the way we’ve seen other technology evolve," concluded Mr. Booty.
"If there’s a fast connection and if the cloud is available and if the scene allows it, you’re obviously going to capitalize on that. In the event of a drop out—and we all know that Internet can occasionally drop out, and I do say occasionally because these days it seems we depend on Internet as much as we depend on electricity – the game is going to have to intelligently handle that.