Leaked documentation uncovered by a hacking group called H4LT has revealed that in November 2014, Microsoft freed up an additional, seventh CPU core of the Xbox One for developers to use.
While freeing up further background processing power for developers is undoubtedly good news for developers and players, the extra CPU power comes with caveats, as outlined by Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter:
However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the additional CPU power comes with conditions and trades attached – however, there is the potential for many games to benefit. Firstly, developers need to give up custom, game-specific voice commands in order to access the seventh core at all, while Kinect’s infra-red and depth functionality is also disabled. Secondly, the amount of CPU time available to developers varies at any given moment – system-related voice commands (“Xbox record that”, “Xbox go to friends”) automatically see CPU usage for the seventh core rise to 50 per cent. At the moment, the operating system does not inform the developer how much CPU time is available, so scheduling tasks will be troublesome. This is quite important – voice commands during gameplay will be few and far between, meaning that 80 per cent of the core should be available most of the time. However, right now, developers won’t know if and when that allocation will drop. It’s a limitation recognize in the documentation, with Microsoft set to address that in a future SDK update.
This move marks the second time Microsoft has allowed developers to use memory usually reserved for Kinect in the wake of un-bundling the camera from the console in an effort to stay competitive with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Whether or not this revelation will ultimately allow the Xbox One to house more powerful software remains to be seen.