Microsoft’s Phil Harrison Explains that Xbox One’s Cloud Can Actually Improve Graphics

The  cloud feature of Xbox One has been discussed quite actively by developers and fans, and one of the points of contention is if it can actually provide enough computational power to improve a game’s graphics. Even the PS4’s Lead Architect Mark Cerny explained that “Trying to boost the quality of the graphics, that won’t work well in the Cloud.”

Yet Microsoft seems to disagree with that view, as mentioned today during his panel at Eurogamer Expo by Corporate Vice President Phil Harrison.

It’s also about cloud processing and AI. This is where some of the computational effort of a game can be offloaded to the dedicated CPUs on the cloud, to make your game experience even better, better graphics, better lighting, better physics.

This is an example of where we think the the cloud is going to push the next generation of game development in new and creative ways, that will make the experience even more better.

There you have it, straight from the Lion’s mouth: at least according to Harrison, the Xbox One will actually be able to count on the cloud’s power to improve games’ visual fidelity. Will it really manage that feat? And how? We don’t know yet, but we’ll hopefully see it in action soon.

As a bonus, below you can see a picture of one of the massive server farms that will offer their CPU power to the Xbox One’s cloud.


Join the Discussion

  • vicfermino

    This is not an explanation at all. But if this is actually a thing, does it means that if I’m offline, I’ll be playing an uglier game than people playing online? I’m confused.

    • Giuseppe Nelva

      He explains that it does, not HOW it does it, which is my pet peeve, because I can’t yet wrap my head around how it can be done, but we’ll see.

  • slumdog hundredaire

    I would suspect that this is for machine always connected to the Cloud. What is he is saying is reasonable, and does not contradict Cerny. The CPU power used to AI would be freed up because of the cloud processing. That makes sense to me.

    • Ingiomar Martina

      not only will it free up. The AI can also be much much smarter. People fail to realize how much computational power a smart AI requires. Now its possible because of the cloud.

      • jayflow

        My only question is why isn’t Microsoft showing videos of games running using the cloud? They keep talking about it, but show us something. Lets see the difference the cloud makes.

        • Probably because they don’t have it ready yet to show off.

          My worry is the fact that any game using this is unusable offline. Once you use the cloud resource for any significant portion of your game, you’ll require constant and most likely, unfettered, access to the web. This to me is simply another way to have constant online DRM.

          Might be good for AI though, I think we’ll all have to wait and see.

        • Bill E Weaver

          Developers are still learning what can and can’t be offset for best performance. In a couple of years I won’t be surprised if everyone has had their brains wrapped around this idea. I beat Halo will be the example simply because thats Microsofts baby, and they will want their studio to shine!

          • foureyes oni

            your probably right Microsoft needs to lead the way with the cloud in order to give an example of what its truly capable of in a game but they should have done this at nearly the release of the console not one year later, considering how much they hype it. Now if they market it just right with halo it could be the major thing that draws people away from their PS4.

        • Ingiomar Martina

          Maybe because they don’t have one ready yet? Doesn’t mean that its fake or doesn’t exist.

  • Diago

    It means that before with the 360, you would host a game on your own Xbox, taking away power.
    With Xbox One there will be dedicated servers running, so the Xbox One has all of its power available.

    Which still means its roughly 50% weaker the the Playstation 4 overall.

    • ShowanW

      Your post makes no sense at all…

      All that is basically being said is…
      The cloud will take some of the load off the processors hands, and thus freeing up the CPU to put more juice towards something like graphics (Which is still being done locally)… And what does this have to do with Playstation?

      • Diago

        It doesnt make sense to you, yet you formulate what it says, and end with a ignorant question…

        The Xbox One is around 50% slower then the Playstation 4, therefor Microsoft is thinking up fuzzy ways to fool you people into thinking it might! have a fighting chance.

        It won’t matter, the console is smoked by the compitition and it will painfully show this in the months to come.
        xbox fans will have hope, but thats all it is, in no way shape or form will this cloud idea forge a fist, its a trick for fools like you to hold onto.

    • David Vaughan


  • RJ

    In theory this will work, but if you want to use cloud powered games then the entire game (even singleplayer) must be always online.
    It would be quite stupid to degrade graphics if no internet connection is present

    I think it would be even stupider to make the multiplayer look better than single player.

    I’m an xbox fanboy so I am looking forward to this though it does require the gamer to have an always online connection

    • Jeffrey Alexander

      Keep in mind though, single player can look great now and multiplayer can look just as good with added players and use the cloud to keep the modes looking and feeling the same (framerate and stuff)
      I had the same concern initially (so, no connection means a worse-off single player?) but then though of the other way around where multiplayer is often limited by what the engine can handle without compromise with added players. What if single player modes have been slightly gimped to allow a parity to the multiplayer mode (in terms of graphic fidelity and such)?

    • WoundingAgate

      you don’t have to be always online,you can just connect
      once and your game will have all the updates.

      • teufel

        Not really, the proposed idea of improving the graphics by off loading computation to the Cloud would require continual connection in order to have the Cloud control/produce the NPCs rather than the CPU/GPU that would be taxed for this effort barring the actual pixels the GPU would still have to produce to make the characters visible, and their earlier explanation that you are eluding to was not based on improving anything other than downloading AI based on human game play and had nothing to do with visuals.

  • Matthew Durst

    But just wait until comcast starts to throttle your internet connection…

    • KillemSoftly

      I’ve had Comcast for years & download lots of music, movies & tv shows & they’ve never throttled my internet, & Microsoft owns over a $1 Billion in Comcast so wouldn’t Microsoft have so type of pull with them?

      • klobnitrones

        its a new initiative that mediacom and comcast are starting where after 250 gb/month they will either throttle or charge extra

        • agentbb007

          I’ve done a lot of searching and can’t find anything about Comcast and Mediacom throttling except for peer to peer bittorrent stuff.
          If you have a source then quote it otherwise stop spreading lies and rumors…

      • foureyes oni

        i’ve only had issues with comcast once with downloading but that was my fault mostly the speeds were too good for downloading. movies and tv shows add up when your watching several seasons in one month. plus netflix ,plus other family members using the internet. 250gigs is a joke when your not using self control. i blame HD.

      • Anthony J. Mitchell

        Yeah, I am still waiting on this alleged throttled Internet from Comcast. Years of hearing bullshit about it, and nope nothing but bullshit still.

    • agentbb007

      From what I’ve read the data that will be transferred from cloud processing will be very small in comparison to other types of bandwidth intense traffic ex. video streaming.

      Any broadband connection will offer plenty of bandwidth in order to allow the cloud to do its processing.

  • Rhem

    Dont know why people are worrying so much about the whole online thing, surely most of the time your playing single player, your online anyway…especially if you want the dates in your achievements 😉

    U don’t see people complaining about game why about this cloud stuff…

    “so if i’m offline, meaning I can’t download the latest updates, will other people be playing a more smoother/fixed version of the game and I wont be” well fuckin derrrr

    • TalonHampton

      I’ll be getting both consoles because I always have and I’ll just deal with anything that comes up. Think of it like this, has your internet ever gone down or become slow all of a second? Im sure it has. Imagine your playing a game were the AI is in the cloud and your internet throttles down a bit. Your most routers cant be set to prioritize certain connections over others so when speed is cut it’s never a smooth transition. Its like pinching a hose and data becomes erratic until the router and devices can compensate. In most online games you currently notice this as a sudden bout of lag maybe 1-3 seconds and everything is back to normal.

      Now lets say your AI is in the cloud and your connection slows, what you think will happen? Odds are that the AI will stutter a second or two while waiting for your connection to stabilize or switch back to letting your actual hardware handle it. Imagine being in a race and a cars AI stutters in a turn or playing a open world game and all the NPCs stop moving for 2 seconds all at the same time.

      At its worst you could be playing a single player game and either the graphics degrade and then fix themselves in front of your eyes or even switch to a loading screen in the middle of play similar to host migration but switching from cload to local assets.

      Understand that its not about the actual having to be connected thats a problem. Its the fluctuation of internet speed thats scary and a problem for this sort of thing. Go to and check your internet speed up and down as well as your ping. Write it down and then check it again three times. Your speeds and ping will have fluctuated each time.

      That being said. I just want to play video games and I dont care. I’ll deal with it.

      • MarkusMcNugen

        Its not bandwidth that would be the problem. The “cloud” servers would solve the AI, physics, or lighting equations and send the results back. Which would not require a significant portion of bandwidth. What you would find to be the issue is latency.OnLive and Gaikai all had these latency issues, and thats just sending input to and streaming video from the cloud. I think they can pull it off and internet technology is only going to get more and more advanced.

        • Diago

          Yes thats why i said

          “Graphic calculations are at (timing), no internet connection could ever truly mix it self up in, ever”

          • Jacob

            That’s simply not true. Gigabit internet connections will be the norm soon enough. I mean, if we can have it in TN, surely the rest of the country can’t be far behind.

      • Diago

        Graphic calculations are at timing, no internet connection could ever truly mix it self up in, ever…

        This whole Cloud idea came from the after effect of the Xbox One being around 50% weaker at rendering games because the designers spend a ton of money trying to include TV hardware into the box, instead of focusing on power it to run games.

        Its a marketing ploy, and if you understand basic GFX rendering you can see how impossible it is to influince rendering cycles from a source as slow as the internet.

        Its a sexy idea, but thats all it is.

        • TalonHampton

          It can be done, were just not ready for it in any way. Maybe 10 years or so.

  • ARealGamer

    I noticed Microsoft keeps talking about “The cloud increasing the X1’s graphics”, so does that mean that instead of devs actually working on the game and optimizing it to make it look good they will depend on the cloud? Or does that mean that developers will hold the game back graphically in order to increase it via “the cloud”?

    • Rabid

      Wow that’s a while lot of negativity there. It doesnt mean either of those things. It means that devs will have the option to offload the AI to the cloud if its available in order to free up the CPU to run other processes such as lighting and physics. I assume they would need to optimize for both possibilities and have an option in the menus for us to enable/disable.

  • Franggio Hogland

    So what he is saying is that people are buying a machine for $500 that will stream your games?

    Well we’re going in that direction but I dislike that future, but I understand it.

  • mrimpatient35

    The graphics thing is hard to believe, but the lighting is more believable to me. Especially after seeing a video about it a few weeks ago.

  • Elsupacabra

    This again?…

  • Stranger On The Road

    Well, for the “cloud” to really do that, then the users’ side will have to have a fast, low latency and unlimited traffic connection. The only thing I can see as improvement to the graphics is that if the cloud is used to ‘pre-render’ cut scenes with your customized character in them.

    Any way, while the servers are dedicated, I honestly don’t believe that they will give each user their own dedicated processor; they will use virtual machines to bring the cost of the datacenter down. If not then even the ‘Gold’ membership won’t cover the cost of keeping the server farm running….. By the way, is ‘gold’ membership required for a game to use the cloud? Never bothered to look into it. If ‘gold’ isn’t required then MS will need to find away to pay for the ‘cloud’ part of the XB1 for the next few years!

    Now what I’m wondering about is: will MS release an application to give offline users their own personal cloud to work with the XB1? This application will use the user’s home PC, and should give better results than the ‘cloud’ since it will be running on the LAN.

    • Lostbytes

      By the way, is ‘gold’ membership required for a game to use the cloud?……
      Gold is required to go on-line, so yes…….

  • dirkradke

    What it comes down to is we will have to wait and see the results of what Microsoft is talking about. If they could provide an example of using the cloud and not using the cloud and demonstrating the better graphics that would be best. I’m not talking about a bullet point on paper. I’m talking about a working demo of a game such as Forza 5. Then having a rep from Microsoft say: “see this is what the graphics look like without the cloud” and “this is what it looks like with the cloud”. It would be tangible and verifiable proof as opposed to something that is still abstract to most people.

  • arron bansloten

    The xbox one transfers data internally at around 200 Gigabytes a second. Average internet speed in the US is a couple megabytes a second. So, what processing you would get, would be high latency, not to mention insignificant compared to internal processing, and would load your internet making cloud processing during online play unrealistic. MS suffering from verbal diarrhea in attempt to save an inferior product.

    • David Vaughan

      HEHEHEHE…verbal diarrhea! I completely agree…if anyone actually believes that the cloud will improve graphics in any significant way, is a complete idiot! LOL!

      • Abba Okoro

        So how does Youtube work? LOL

    • Abba Okoro

      >1 Latency is only a FACTOR if you enough servers in the region or if the game completely hosted on the Cloud which it’s not.
      Also a connection of 3 MBPS is required since the average internet connection is 7.1 MBPS well LOL

      But keep downplaying how is it an inferior product when it has more features than the PS4?

  • Josiah Grey

    Oh boy this launch is going to just be a bleeding mess lmao

  • Lujo

    Cloud powah!!!!

    What a bullshit! Better graphics?? It doesn’t work like that.

    • gogeta207

      sony fans always play around of micro subject

  • Aaron

    Respawn already shared how this was going to work in a blog post. It’s marketing BS. Per the Respawn developer, the only way it will improve graphics is by using Microsoft’s servers as dedicated servers thereby reducing the amount of CPU power needed for the game by the host’s console so that every console’s CPU can be fully available for game processing.

    • Whatthehecklol

      and like it’s been said it’s up to the developers on how they use it obviously MS haven’t got this done yet but in a year or two you just might be shocked.

  • Kamille

    people should keep their mouth shut about this theme, particularly the Sony fanboys. Not even game developers understand how this tech will work because they have never even use it, so you guys should know even less. The only thing we have is some Digital Foundry opinion totally based on pure theory without anything substantial, MS hype and some Nvidia demos.

    • teufel

      Actually gamers would know how cruddy Cloud service is, after all it has been tried and proved to be bogged down with lag for everyone who was on it, not just people with bad connections. I think one of the companies that tried this kind of gaming was bought by Sony even, and I wont be surprised if they even attempt some games like MS is trying with their own version of hosted games.

      Bottom line, bandwidth has a limit, server farms have a limit, and despite what MS wants people to believe, One has a graphical limit based on its GPU that no off loading of processing can fix.

  • Nekrim

    I was thinking, can cloud be used to add more sound variety ? For example, in GTA V you’ll reach a point whereyou keep hearing the same lines over and over again from NPCs in the street. Could cloud be used to stream more varied dialogue lines for NPCs ?

    • teufel

      No/yes, it could store a potential patch that adjusts the game, but in reality, that is just off loading data that you would normally have downloaded on your system to smooth out the game play rather than relying on your internet connection to keep up with the game.

      • Stranger On The Road

        Re-read your post few times… and I still can’t figure out why would someone downvote it!

  • teufel

    Okay, did anyone else catch that he is talking about off putting some of the processing to an online source with the assumption that this wont hinder the game? I know I heard their interview about increasing your gaming experience by competing against Cloud based AI based on actual players, but believing that you could off load enough computation onto the cloud to allow the system to actually improve the visuals is kind of ridiculous and seems to be teetering on the brink of a hosted service rather than actually owning the game.

    Cloud based gaming without enough servers to handle the traffic and fluctuation of population(increase/decrease) is sluggish at best and believing that you could use this to actually improve gaming is laughable at best.

    Also, I would like to finish this off with a warning, for people aware of how MSony have changed policy with their systems in the middle of their life cycles, this might be MS buttering up their users with the idea of Cloud service before they switch back to their “always on” feature completing their “360” a couple years down the road after they have a modest user base that have invested enough that they have no choice but to accept it.

    Heed my warning, MS need only do an update with a policy change where your only option would be to check the yes box, and bam, you are stuck with that “always on” stuff. This is how Sony forced their users to accept that policy that took their right away to sue them over security breaches after their info was blatantly stolen due to their own incompetence.

  • Krepler

    Initially, you’d think this would only make sense for a multiplayer component of a game, since you have to be online anyway but this is exactly how I think MS will push to make all games always online again regardless of SP or MP components. These guys are smart…well in the sense that they think we’re all stupid.

    Now we just have to see how long it’ll take for this to come to fruition and if the general consumer will bite.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    That is a helluva lotta servers for one farm.

    • Abba Okoro

      They have the a better cloud infrastructure than Google HELL YEAH would they be able do this

  • Jeremiah Enrile

    I really can’t wait how embarrassed they will be saying that. Tech people and devs already said it won’t!! best thing it can do is “free” some processing work on the xbones CPU so that it could effciently help the GPU produce better results. its not “offloading polygons and textures” and sending it to your console crap

  • themuIe

    For $500 ($100 more than PS4) I would expect that power to be included in my purchase.

  • Axe99

    The big question I have about all of this is that a room full of servers, like that shown above, is _not_ cheap. Have Microsoft just decided to give up some of the profits they were taking in from Gold subs (competition is good explanation) or are we going to be copping the cost of this somewhere else down the track? Server farms don’t build, power and house themselves ;).

  • aintgonnawork


    • Abba Okoro

      I know since it’s not Sony= it being impossible…lol

      • Diago

        No dummy, the best developers in the industry said it can’t work…

        • Abba Okoro

          No what are you talking about? Respawn HELL The fox engine runs mainly on cloud. Even Ubisoft is using on Watchdogs

  • omnyoto

    “More better”? lol

  • WellWisher

    So if the AI is in the cloud, when your internet drops out do characters become retarded?

  • Nicholas Perry

    LOL sure, but then you won’t be able to tell a difference thanks to all the video compression.

    Not to mention bandwidth caps.

  • Gamehard

    I told you all! The Cloud will destroy PC gaming. It has the sikest graphiks!

  • Jakseth

    People believing in Cloud enhanced graphic are probably the
    same ones that believed all the lies regarding the first Kinect.

    Open your eyes people. You are been duped by indecent
    marketing propaganda.

    Cloud enhanced graphic is POTENTIALLY possible but NOT possible in our current internet
    infrastructure. They might obtain something on a top notch internet connection
    with very low latency but it won’t be a big change.

    However Cloud enhanced AI is a much more realistic
    perspective ( with good bandwidth and low lag of course)

  • Dollow Rlance

    Cloud computing cannot improve graphics.

  • heavenshitman1

    Will the system be reliable? What if I’m running cloud processing for my games graphics and my net connection trips for a moment, does my game crash?
    What if I don’t have access to a net connection at all for any reason, can I still do single player in games that utilize cloud graphics/AI processing (possibly hence why M’soft pushed for always online anyways at the start, to get ppl used to this online dependency factor)
    And what if there’s a latency on my connection? Are NPC’s going to lock up or misbehave or will I have interrupting delayed graphical effects that can interfere with my gameplay?

    • Jeremiah Enrile

      Exactly!! I don’t believe in cloud improving graphics. what is this “Offloading textures and polygons”?? PCs today doesn’t even have this kind of application. how much more the xbone??

      • heavenshitman1

        I believe it may all be plausible one day, but pretty much not for this whole gen I’d say. I’ve even seen NVidia I think it was dish out a demo of cloud graphics processing (and even artificially applying different latency delays) and it worked pretty well.
        But it was a puny tech-demo example, and getting it all happening in a real game would be near impossible I’d say.
        Even more so for the AI factor. If the AI in your game is processed on the cloud, and there’s lag in your connection anywhere. What’s supposed to happen, enemies stop fighting you for seconds at a time, everyone in the world pauses for moments here and there. AI rival racers and drivers head off cliffs because the AI cloud-computing delay failed to have them turn a corner at the appropriate moment?
        hmm this could all actually be quite amusing I’d suggest..

        • heavenshitman1

          Then there’s the issue of cost. All these companies are promoting cloud computing like it’s extra processing performance for free , for your gaming system. But running these server farms would be mega dollars, and it has to be made back somewhere, and any gaming dev that uses another companies servers will be paying rent for that.
          So somewhere along the way the costs will filter back down to the end user anyways in the form of higher average game costs (or extra extra DLC) or simply bigger or more premiums to run these games online or have online services. Sony has already added online subscription fees to the PS4 now. And M’soft spent 10 billion on their new servers recently. Anyone think XB1 will make 10 billion dollars profits in the next 7 years??

  • gogeta207

    guys the consol is not coming yet so plz dont say anything u dont know lets judge it later dont be haters

  • Jeremiah Enrile

    You don’t need to be a judge or a hater or a tech genius. This is not possible. Only thing it can do is A.I and some other stuff. not “Offloading textures and polycount to the cloud”. PCs are the first to use any new tech and guess what, cloud graphics doesn’t exist. Ask nay real PC tech head. can’t you guys formulate some questions?? like If i play offline will I have inferior graphics compared to the ones online?? what if when im online and my internet goes down, what will happen to my game? will it look bad?? and lastly, if this tech is real, then why can’t they make the Xbox 360 more powerful thru cloud?? cloud uses the internet right? so does 360. But i guess many will still believe. Im a sony fan. but if sony said that cloud will improve graphics, I wont believe them

  • You are flat out wrong

    Microsoft finally take the muzzle off Phil and he immediately starts spouting embarrassing guff. Typical.

  • awake33

    For all the internet bench experts with degrees is mathematics, physics, programming and processor design (well, that is how many of you seem to think of yourselves, lmao)

    Keep in mind two huge factors; this was three years ago and it was an ordinary laptop.
    And please don’t be selective and only take from this presentation that it was on a gigabit connection.

  • Jacob

    People seem to be worried about internet connection speeds more than anything. And I suppose rightly so. Nobody wants to be left out. However, I work in Chattanooga, TN and this, relatively, small city has the fastest internet connection speeds in the country. It shouldn’t be long before the rest of the country catches up to remain competitive.