Windows 10 powers up PC gaming with DirectX 12, native DVR, deep Xbox integration

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The artificial wall between Xbox players and PC gamers is coming down with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10, which allows streaming of Xbox One games to PCs and even lets gamers on the two disparate platforms play together.

The announcement was one of several made by Microsoft to show the company's commitment to PC gamers. 

"We will treat gaming on Windows 10 with as much passion and energy as we have on the Xbox One," said Xbox One and Microsoft Studios chief Phil Spencer.

In addition to streaming games long confined to the Xbox One, Spencer showed off DirectX 12 on Windows 10 and announced a new game DVR feature that will be built into the new OS.

DX12 to cut power

DirectX 12 has long been expected as part of the new OS, and Spencer showed off how effective the API will be by showing an upcoming Futuremark demo. The demo ran DirectX 11 on one side, eventually bogging down to zero frames per second. Meanwhile, the DirectX 12 demo kept on trucking, as more and more objects were added to the screen. The good news for gamers is most modern GPUs on the market already support DirectX 12.

One surprising bit of news about DirectX 12 is its apparent power savings. Spencer said a game running on DirectX 12 would cut power consumption in half over DirectX 11. Microsoft said the savings would help tablet and phone gaming, but such drastic power savings, if true, should also improve gaming on a laptop.

windows 10 xbox video

The new Windows 10 Xbox app.

Spencer's real surprise, however, is Microsoft's intention to allow PC gamers and Xbox One gamers to play together in certain games that support the feature. A few past cross-over attempts with PC and Xbox players never ended well, so here's hoping.

Spencer has actually long hinted at some cross-over potential. In an interview with Ausgamers.com in late 2013, he said Xbox and PC gamers in the same game "makes a lot of sense."

The first game to allow the cross-platform play will be Fable Legends later this year. 

Dan Stapleton, a longtime games journalist and an executive editor at gaming web site IGN.com, said much of Microsoft's announcements concerning Xbox and PC gaming seemed to help the Xbox One more than PC gaming.

"Streaming games to your PC does make sense if you don't already have a capable gaming PC," explained Stapleton. "Much like the Wii U allows you to stream your games to your GamePad, or the PlayStation 4 allows you to stream games to your Vita while someone else uses the TV, Xbox One will now let you do that with a relatively low-powered PC, like a Surface," he said.

"It's not as useful as either of its competitors' options, though, since a PC is a much more expensive accessory than a $200 Vita or the included GamePad," Stapleton continued. "And again, it's more about adding functionality to your Xbox One than to your PC," he said.

As to the longtime rivalry between PC gamers and console gamers, Stapleton said Microsoft does have to tread carefully. 

"Cross-platform gaming is actually a really good idea for the most part. It increases player communities and makes it easier to find a full game," he said. "The only real issue is that in certain games PC players have a huge advantage when using a mouse controller, but a game like Fable Legends shouldn't have that problem at all."

Stapleton did point out that Microsoft's previous attempt at unifying Xbox and PCs, called Games for Windows Live, went down in flames. He hoped this won't be a repeat of that.

Spencer also announced upcoming support for the streaming of Xbox One games to any Windows 10 PC or tablet.

Windows 10's other gaming features will also include a game DVR mode similar to Nvidia's ShadowPlay, which will allow a player to hit Windows-G and record the last 30 seconds of game play.

The game DVR mode is a nod toward the increasingly social aspect of gaming. Microsoft said you'll be able to take those 30-second moments of epic gaming and be able to share them using the included Xbox App that will be bundled into Windows 10 devices. The app will let you chat, post achievements, and start Skype calls between gamers.

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