Microsoft is allowing select users to start streaming games from their Xbox One console to PCs running Windows 10, a feature that will be available later this year to all users.
Members of the Xbox Preview Program could start streaming the games on Monday afternoon with a new update Microsoft announced following its E3 press conference.
The launch will allow people to turn their Windows PCs and tablets like the Surface Pro 3 into gaming machines by connecting to an Xbox One on their home network. Most of the games currently available on Microsoft’s latest generation console are eligible for streaming, except for those that require special hardware like the Kinect.
People who enjoy playing multiplayer games will be happy to know that the streaming feature will allow them to use a Windows-compatible microphone or headset for voice chat so that they can communicate with teammates to coordinate tactics or exchange friendly banter. Later this year, Microsoft will release a special adapter that will let people use wireless Xbox One controllers with their PC for controlling games they stream along with those that run natively.
Microsoft’s streaming program is important because it lets people without dedicated gaming PCs (which usually cost well over US$1,000) use their computers to play when their home TVs are tied up with things other than video games.
Early previews of the technology, based on briefings Microsoft held with members of the media, have said that the game runs smoothly, even though all of the content is being sent over a network. That’s especially important for games like “Call of Duty” that require split-second reflexes. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, and it remains to be seen how well the feature will work on the wide variety of home network configurations that exist.
It’s worth noting that the feature mirrors whatever is on the Xbox One to the PC, which means that the console can’t also be used for other things like watching Netflix. Streaming games also keeps a user from streaming footage of their gameplay to Twitch, or saving video using the Xbox One’s Game DVR feature. Finally, PC gamers won’t be able to use their beloved mouse and keyboard for playing games that were built for use with the Xbox controller.
Right now, the game streaming feature is only available to members of the invite-only Xbox Preview Program, which Microsoft uses to test new software features with a small population of Xbox One owners. Everybody else will get access to the feature later this year.
The announcement comes alongside a few other improvements to the Xbox One also rolling out later this year, including a new, more responsive user interface.