Microsoft has confirmed that it's working on cloud features for Xbox, but if anyone tells you what that means exactly, they're fired.
Brian Prince, a Microsoft executive and all around cloud guru, has confirmed that "the cloud" will be coming to Xbox soon. In fact, Prince is already working on it. "You will be seeing things in the Xbox platform that's cloud-specific," he announced during a talk at GDC China. "I'm already doing it, it's really exciting, but I can't tell you about it or else I'll get fired."
Because Prince presumably enjoys being employed, he kept his promise of not mentioning any specifics of what new abilities the Xbox would be likely to see. He did, however, speak further about how the cloud has been integrated with other systems and services, and some of the challenges that the industry will be forced to overcome while it shifts towards a higher dependency on it.
Prince used both OnLive and Gaikai as examples of how things might work, citing the two cloud gaming services as an intriguing platform for developers. When working with cloud gaming, he explained, game-makers can either design them directly for Microsoft's cloud servers, or send them to companies such as OnLive and Gaikai to handle things for them. "These are really gaming platforms as a service," Prince claimed. "There are some limitations here, but I really do think this is the distant future of gaming in the cloud."
The limitations to which Prince was referring are the costs associated with developing games to be remotely accessed from a large server located somewhere other than inside of your console. With things as they are currently, this sort of development is only really feasible for AAA titles. "If you're not in that space," he explained, "they don't want to talk to you as much."
With Prince neck-deep working on cloud integration for the Xbox, it's probably a safe bet to say he's extremely informed about Microsoft's interest in embracing the system for its popular console line in the near future. Sony already allows cloud saving for its PlayStation Plus subscribers, and has previously announced cloud saves for use with its upcoming Vita handheld system that will allow for cross-console gaming with the PS3. It seems likely that Microsoft is interested in at least maintaining pace with its competitor, though whether Xbox's cloud integration will stop at saves (an update already scheduled for inclusion in the next XBL dashboard design) or evolve into full-blown game distribution is still unknown.