It's been a long time coming, but following the launch of local Azure Data Centres in Melbourne and Sydney, Microsoft has officially announced it will be hosting local Xbox LIVE services here in Australia. Starting from today, Australian gamers should feel the benefit of this upgrade, with no update necessary.
Given that Xbox LIVE services use the Azure Centres in other global territories, we've long speculated that Microsoft Australia would follow suit post-launch. The Azure Centres opened in Australia on October 27 and when we spoke to Jeremy Hinton, Xbox Lead for Microsoft Australia, he mentioned the possibility of announcements before the end of 2014. This is the announcement he was alluding to.
"It has been a very exciting year for both Xbox and the industry. We set out to deliver amazing experiences on the Xbox One platform, and are humbled by the support and positive response from Aussie gamers to the updates over the past 12 months," he said in a statement. "Today’s announcement of Australian based Xbox Live servers addresses the most requested feature from local gamers. We are excited to give our fans the best online gaming experience available, just in time for the Holidays."
Microsoft has long discussed the potential of these Azure Centres for the Xbox One, and many defer to it when discussing the future proofing of the console. The press release points to games like Forza Motorsport 5, Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection -- but the reality is that Microsoft intends to use the Azure services for more than just locally hosted games. The promise of cloud-based gaming is that certain processes will be sent to the cloud, enabling the Xbox One to use that spare processing power to increase visual fidelity.
We've yet to see that promise delivered upon in any real way, but the Azure Centres have been used, for example, to handle Drivatar information in Forza Motorsport, creating digital representations of each individual players style of driving. The Azure Centres also helped power enemy AI in Titanfall.
It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft uses this technology in the coming years.