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Microsoft tweaks Xbox and Teams services during surge in cloud demand

Microsoft tweaks Xbox and Teams services during surge in cloud demand


Custom Xbox gamerpics being disabled alongside changes to Teams video resolution

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft is seeing a significant increase in demand for its cloud services during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This increase in demand includes Windows Virtual Desktop usage growing more than three times, and record numbers across Microsoft Teams, Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live, and Mixer.

While the software giant originally reported “a 775 percent increase of our cloud services in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders,” over the weekend, the company soon had to correct its misleading statement late on Monday. “We have seen a 775 percent increase in Teams’ calling and meeting monthly users in a one month period in Italy, where social distancing or shelter in place orders have been enforced,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson.

Either way, cloud demand is growing and Microsoft has started tweaking its services accordingly. “To streamline moderation and ensure the best experience for our community, we’re making small adjustments,” says an Xbox support note. “We’ve temporarily turned off the ability to upload custom gamerpics, club pics, and club backgrounds.” Existing custom Xbox gamerpics will work just fine, but Microsoft is trying to lighten the load on its moderation team checking new uploads during an overall increase in Xbox Live activity.

Microsoft is also making some changes to Teams

Microsoft says it’s also working with Xbox game publishers to “deliver higher-bandwidth activities like game updates during off-peak hours.” Sony has also taken a similar approach by slowing down PlayStation game downloads to help preserve overall internet speeds.

Microsoft revealed last week that it will prioritize cloud access for first responders and emergency services, and keep Microsoft Teams up and running. Teams usage surged by 12 million in just a week earlier this month, and Microsoft Teams initially suffered some outages as a result.

Microsoft has now temporarily tweaked some aspects of Teams to improve overall capacity and reliability. “We made a few temporary adjustments to select non-essential capabilities such as how often we check for user presence, the interval in which we show when the other party is typing, and video resolution.”

Correction: Microsoft’s original blog posted stated that the company had seen a 775 percent increase in cloud services demand in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders. Microsoft later corrected this statement to clarify the 775 percent increase was limited to Italy and just Microsoft Teams calling, not overall cloud demand.