"Are we exactly where we want to be today?" says Jeremy Hinton, Xbox Lead for Microsoft Australia. "No.
"Have we made massive gains in the last 12 months? I think we have."
Despite a reported disparity in pre-orders, the Xbox One was released in late 2013 to much fanfare. The launch was the most successful in Australian history, an achievement that was not repeated in any other territory across the world.
Since that day, the PlayStation 4 has been outselling the Xbox One at a reported ratio of two to one. Not the ideal scenario, particularly since the Xbox brand has always been strong here in Australia, but Jeremy Hinton is confident that a strong line-up of exclusive titles and the opening of local Azure Centres here in Australia might help tip the balance over the coming years.
"We’re in a place where we’re trying to prove to the community that we’re the best place to play," he explains.
Part of that task, he says, is responding to feedback, particularly when it come to the services the Xbox One can provide.
"It’s been really important for us to respond to feedback," says Jeremy. "I get reports on a monthly basis and that’s what actively drives our engineers now. What are we putting in the box, what features do we have, what does the community want to see? Things like DNLA streaming, the Plex app — they came directly from that feedback. It is really important for us to be responsive to the community and say ‘we’re here, we’re listening’.
"We wanted to make sure we’re living up to the idea that the Xbox is the best place to play."
Part of living up to that idea is the promise of local servers. Take Titanfall, for example. Upon launch pings were dreadful for local players, which resulted in Microsoft, EA and Respawn putting together a solution that allowed for local servers being set up in Australia. Pings, says Hinton, went from 250 to sub-20 overnight.
But that was just the patch solution.
In October Microsoft officially announced that its long promised Azure Centres were open for business in Melbourne and Sydney. These Azure Centres are primarily designed for business, but they've typically been used for other purposes in other locations across the globe: they're used to host Xbox LIVE games.
Jeremy stopped short of announcing anything officially, but reinforced that these local Azure servers would play a large part in transforming the Australian Xbox LIVE service in the coming years.
"We have no announcements right now in terms of exact timings but we are working on it as we speak," he explains. "Hopefully we’ll have some announcements in the next couple of weeks but absolutely the intent is that anywhere there is a centre is to have that centre run Xbox Live multiplayer games."
But above and beyond better latency lurks the promise of 'the cloud' and the ability for Xbox One games to divert certain aspects of in-game processing to these Azure Centres. It sounds like science fiction, which is partly why many people have been cynical, but Jeremy Hinton believes this functionality will be pivotal in the coming years.
"I said this at launch to a lot of people, and I don’t think people understood at that point in time but I genuinely feel that it’ll be the most important thing of this generation. Having that functionality locally is amazing in terms of the experiences you can deliver."
It's been used minimally until now. Forza games have been using the cloud for its 'Drivatars' and Titanfall reportedly used the cloud to help process AI, but according to Jeremy that's just the beginning.
"I think it’s really important for an experience perspective — more and more games are becoming online only. It’s all merging and having that local infrastructure is a huge investment on our part. It not only affects what we can deliver today, but over the next two to three years you’re just going to see it fundamentally shift the experiences we can deliver.
"Hopefully there are a lot of people saying, I wasn’t going to buy and Xbox One last year, but I will this year."