Will certain Xbox One games benefit from free access to dedicated Microsoft servers? That's what some in the media are suggesting, but we've yet to light on a concrete statement to this effect from the manufacturer. Turn 10's Dan Greenawalt has muddied the waters still further, telling OXM at Gamescom that as an Xbox One title, Forza Motorsport 5 enjoys "great advantages kind of for free".
"Racing gamers are also looking for great multiplayer, and the nice thing about being on Xbox One is that we get great advantages kind of for free, so it's kind of cheating," he explained to us. "We get dedicated servers. Now we can get dedicated servers on Xbox 360, but you have to do the work - now, we can just tap in and get dedicated servers, which gives you better quality of service as a racing gamer."
Turn 10 is, of course, a first party studio, but it's rumoured that Microsoft has struck similar deals with third parties. Call of Duty: Ghosts on Xbox One will also run on dedicated Microsoft servers, "ensuring the best multiplayer experience will be on Xbox One", in the words of Infinity Ward's executive producer Mark Rubin. However, when we asked whether Sony might also provide dedicated servers for the PS4 version, Rubin was unable to comment.
The nearest we have to a definitive account of what Microsoft's touted Xbox One cloud support actually represents comes care of Respawn Entertainment, developer of the always-online Xbox console exclusive Titanfall. "I personally talked to both Microsoft and Sony and explained that we need to find a way to have potentially hundreds-of-thousands of dedicated servers at a price point that you can't get right now," the developer's Jon Shiring wrote in June.
"Microsoft realized that player-hosted servers are actually holding back online gaming and that this is something that they could help solve, and ran full-speed with this idea," he continued. Later in the piece, however, Shiring revealed that Respawn would still pay for Microsoft's server support, albeit at a very reasonable price.
"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. Most importantly to us, Microsoft priced it so that it's far more affordable than other hosting options - their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers."
The "great advantages" available to Forza 5 include Xbox Live's revised match-making and reputation systems. "We also get Smart Match, which puts you together with other gamers from your region, or who speak your language, or who play games the way you play them, so you're paired with fewer cheaters and fewer jerks," Greenawalt remarked at Gamescom. "Unless you're a cheater or a jerk, and then you get to play with cheaters and jerks all day. Have fun!"
Another advantage touted by Microsoft is the ability to carry out non-time-critical processing on servers, allowing developers to devote more of the console's resources to latency-sensitive tasks such as graphics rendering. When we first laid eyes on Forza 5, Greenawalt revealed that the game can run at 1080p and 60 frames a second because certain tasks are offloaded to the cloud.
Read more about Xbox One's cloud support in our Xbox One guide.