Microsoft wants to stream PC games to your Xbox One

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Is About to Make PC Gamers’ Dreams Come True.

Although the overwhelming majority of PC gamers run Windows, it would be fair to say that their relationship with Microsoft has been fraught throughout the years. Under the tagline “it’s the Windows you know, only better” Microsoft is promising a range of exciting features, from the return of the Start menu to the arrival of Cortana, a cross-platform digital assistant that promises to be sort of like Paperclip guy but actually useful.

Windows 8, meanwhile, brought an unfriendly interface and a half-hearted App Store pricing model, which was met with a collective shrug by countless gamers worldwide who stuck with Windows 7. Valve CEO Gabe Newell told The Verge that “Windows 8 was like this giant sadness” that “just hurts everybody in the PC business.” Minecraft creator Notch said “I’d rather have Minecraft not run on Windows 8 at all than play along” with Microsoft’s attempt to sell games itself. Spencer cautioned that it could be a “little more challenging” than getting Xbox One games to stream to the PC. “But challenge is good,” he added. Windows 10 will place an Xbox Live app on your PC, giving you access to your Xbox friends list, achievements, messages and activity feed, so you’ll be able to keep an eye on your console chums when you’re not actually on your console.

Following the troubled launch of Windows 8, Microsoft proceeded to torpedo Xbox’s reputation by making its new console less powerful than the PlayStation 4, more expensive due to a mandatory Kinect bundle of dubious value, and more focused on entertainment features to the detriment of gaming. “It was a tough time for the team, a tough time for what we were trying to do with Xbox,” says Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer in an interview with The Verge. “Because a lot of the original ideas around Xbox One didn’t meet the expectations that Xbox fans have of what we should do with our product.” But after taking over from Don Mattrick, Spencer’s gamer-focused approach has started to pay off after hard decisions like unbundling Kinect; Microsoft’s E3 keynote last month was universally well-received. The company is adamant that it isn’t trying to compete with Steam – indeed, in its news piece on the OS, Microsoft’s Wire blog hinted that Steam, GoG, and Battle.net titles will all be visible and accessible in the Xbox app. We’re hoping the company takes this chance to streamline this process however, as Xbox One owners currently need to import Game DVR videos into another app, Upload Studio, to record voice-overs before depositing the footage on OneDrive. Here’s an example: I own a Steam copy of Ori and the Blind Forest, a game that launched this year on Xbox One and PC with considerable backing from Microsoft.

If I play Ori in Windows 10, there are some things I can do through the Xbox app; pressing Win-G or the Xbox home button on my controller to take screenshots or record footage, for instance. Microsoft’s current console is set to get a big update in the autumn, which will include an improved dashboard design (phew) and better multiplayer matchmaking. Apparently, it will be easier for you to find out useful information about your games (such as achievements and fan-made video clips), as well as discovering new titles that may be of interest based on what you’ve already played.

Microsoft is also building the community elements of the dashboard, improving the friends activity feed and adding a “What’s Trending on Xbox Live” section so you know what everyone else in the world is playing together. Xbox Live-enabled games didn’t exactly take off on Windows 8; as of today the store is populated with little more than mobile ports and Microsoft’s new, social versions of games like Minesweeper and Mahjong. The one big Windows 10 game to hit the store today is a new version of Minecraft, ironically enough given Notch’s prior statements on the Windows Store. The PC’s open nature is one of its biggest strengths — Spencer correctly points out that Minecraft’s success came down to “a dude just creates a Java app, throws it up with a PayPal link, and all of a sudden it becomes massive.” But in practice, most PC gamers are so entrenched in their Steam libraries that almost anything else is an unwelcome distraction. But Microsoft believes the Xbox ecosystem has something unique to add to Windows. “Back in the day with Games for Windows [Live] when it was out, really there was a sentiment inside the Xbox group that if we could only get those Windows people to play games on the console, that would help us sell more Xboxes,” says Spencer. “I love selling more Xboxes. [But] more than selling more Xboxes, I love having people have fun on Xbox Live.

The company says Direct X 12 will significantly boost graphics performance on your current hardware, and works with major graphics engines like Unity3D and Unreal Engine 4.4. The benefits are quite technical but they include an update to the Direct3D element of Direct X that will give coders closer access to graphics hardware, which should in turn mean a more optimised performance.

This allows programmers to improve performance by sharing tasks between the integrated graphics chipset in your PC’s CPU and any discrete graphics accelerator card you install whether its from Intel, AMD or Nvidia. Microsoft doesn’t seem too invested in the concept of a PC gaming store, let alone the prospect of taking on Steam. “Steam is massive and they’ve been incredibly important to the Windows gaming ecosystem,” says Spencer. “Five years from now I want Steam to be incredibly popular and successful. DirectX 12 will be a big deal when it’s adopted fully; the latest version of Microsoft’s gaming API will take better advantage of multi-core processors and multiple GPUs to offer potentially much stronger performance. They have replicated the iOS APIs in Visual studio which means you can open an iOS app project in Visual Studio and it will convert it to a C++ project and compile straight to Windows. Windows 10 is making the Xbox UI faster, which is great.” It’s also worth noting, of course, that Windows 10 is the best-designed and most usable version of Windows in recent memory, and that if you do anything with your PC beyond gaming you’ll probably want to upgrade at some point anyway.

Later in the same month, Microsoft and Valve hinted at a partnership to ensure Windows 10 compatibility with SteamVR, Valve’s virtual reality platform.

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