Microsoft’s eighth generation console, the Xbox One is fighting on several fronts in the battle of controlling tech in the living room. As far as the low end of the market is concerned, the console is fighting against Amazon, Apple and Roku that provide video streaming from the internet to the TV via inexpensive set-top boxes, which are priced at $99 and this is a far cry from the $449 price tag of the console. Then, there is Sony’s flagship console, the PlayStation 4 that also offers the same video streaming and gaming capabilities at a price tag of $399. However, most blockbuster games are launched for both Xbox One and the PS4.
This means that a console’s success is defined in the way it is able to differentiate the experience and the number of exclusive games that are offered on a particular console rather than on all. The incorporation of Kinect is the most obvious way in which Microsoft has attempted to give users a unique experience via Xbox One as it enables them to control their console through gestures and voice alone. If a cable box is plugged into the Xbox One, it will let users use some commands for even controlling their television.
It is trickier for companies to get exclusive games because developers invest hundreds of millions of dollars and years for bringing blockbuster games and they want them to be available to as many customers as possible. This means that Microsoft would either have to pay the publishers or offer them services that they cannot get anywhere else if it wants the games to be exclusive. For instance, the Xbox and Xbox 360 were the only consoles that provided online gaming and Sony caught up with Microsoft with the PlayStation 3. This meant that Microsoft had to introduce something new for its Xbox One and it’s clear that it thinks that Azure cloud, announced at its Build conference in Sans Francisco could be the differentiator.
One of the first points that were discussed was that the single biggest and exclusive game that was released for the Xbox One is Titanfall and its build on this cloud infrastructure. It is nothing new to use massive servers for hosting multiplayer video games. The new feature is that this infrastructure can be scaled up and down massively as per the developer’s needs and do complex operations at the same time. A lot more has been invested by Microsoft in its cloud architecture as compared to Nintendo and Sony. After all, the company is competing with Google and Amazon in this space.
This means that Microsoft can do a lot more with its servers such as making graphics, advanced simulations and in-game AI. The AI simulations in Titanfall are done on the cloud, as per its developer and they cannot be run on an individual’s console without causing a lag. But with Azure, no expensive server infrastructure has to be purchased and physical simulation is also made easy as the game doesn’t slow down on consoles as it might on PC versions.