Microsoft has made some nebulous claims regarding the "power of the cloud." Respawn Entertainment, developers of the upcoming Titanfall, finally make clear what the cloud actually is, and why they're so fond of it.
The cloud is, as many people assumed, an extension of Microsoft's Azure platform, which has been running for three years. It's a service that Microsoft is investing heavily in. The cloud enables Titanfall to have "dedicated servers," instead of problematic player-hosted servers that are so common in gaming today. The reason they are used so frequently in modern games is because "it doesn't cost money to run the servers."
Xbox Live Cloud differs from the standard dedicated server model by letting Azure dynamically scale resources up (and down), depending on demand. "It's far more affordable than other hosting options," Respawn's Jon Shiring explained.
"With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don't have to worry about estimating how many servers we'll need on launch day. We don't have to find ISPs all over the globe and rent servers from each one. We don't have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server. That lets us focus on things that make our game more fun. And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter," Shiring details on Respawn's blog.
While "the cloud" has useful applications, the explanation offered by Respawn makes us question why it's a feature touted by Microsoft as exclusive to Xbox One, when any internet-connected device could take advantage of cloud computing. Even Shiring points out that "Titanfall uses the Xbox Live Cloud to run dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360."
Perhaps it's because developers haven't figured out exactly how to leverage the cloud computing possibilities afforded by Xbox One. "Over time, I expect that we’ll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers," Shiring postulates. "This is something that's going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come."