When gamers hear the name “Microsoft,” they might imagine an Xbox more often than a PC, even though the large majority of PC gamers use Windows, but the company is determined to change that perception. Microsoft has a long history of gaming—publishing hit titles like Age of Empires and Halo—a pedigree that proves its PC gaming chops. Over the years, game development focus has shifted to the many iterations of Xbox—but through Windows 10, Microsoft is making considerable efforts to appeal to PC gamers with AAA titles, exclusive features and more without abandoning the controller wielding masses.
An OS For Gaming
Every first-party Microsoft game announced during E3 2016 was released on Windows 10 in addition to Xbox One—a precursor to the company’s renewed passion for PC gaming. Windows 10 Game Mode gives priority to the user’s CPU and GPU over normal background tasks and apps which, in theory, results in more consistent frame rates.
“We needed a contemporary, game-focused version of Windows, and that’s Windows 10, the best version of Windows ever for gaming,” Peter Orullian, Xbox group product manager told TechRadar. “Since the launch of Windows 10, each update has come with new gaming features and integration. It’s part of our focus now with Windows. We’ve also extended Xbox Live, our social gaming network, to Windows, creating a rich way for gamers to connect, compete, and share.”
The most recent Windows 10 Creators Update adds integrated Beam functionality, so players can easily watch and broadcast game livestreams. Easy streaming is a smart move, considering the rising popularity of Game Video Content consumption. SuperData predicts that the worldwide audience for GVC will reach 665 million in 2017, more than double the population of the US. Also, let’s not overlook how players can stream Xbox One games, including Xbox 360 games via backward compatibility, from their consoles to Windows 10 PCs over an in-home network. This feature may become even more valuable when Microsoft’s Scorpio console launches, since its high-end graphics can be streamed to mid-range computers. Xbox One games can also be streamed to an Oculus Rift headset for a giant virtual screen experience.
Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo, told AListDaily that marketing a PC video game is no longer just about the players, but those who are watching livestreams as well. “There are a large number of game enthusiasts out there that spend more time viewing than gaming,” he said. “This also offers strategic opportunities for developers to branch out in terms of business models or to create interactive elements on top of streams. There already are some games in which the viewers determine the sequence of events in multiplayer games that are played by others.”
Xbox Play Anywhere finally bridges the gap between console and PC games, with compatible digital titles interchangeable between Windows 10 and Xbox One—a number of which in native 4K resolution. Gears of War 4 was the first game to offer this feature, followed by Forza Horizon 3, Halo Wars 2 and several others. For games that feature Play Anywhere, both versions of the game will automatically sync. For example, buying a game on Xbox One will automatically add it to the users’ Windows 10 library, and vice versa. Saved games, achievements, and other information carry over between the two versions, as well.
Being able to play games on both platforms means buying them the same way. That’s the idea behind Microsoft’s Anniversary Update that makes it possible to purchase games in one location. Microsoft will reportedly offer self-service refunds for digital game purchases through Xbox Live across Xbox One and PC, according to an image of an upcoming update posted on Reddit.
While the added convenience is great news for gamers, Microsoft is nurturing its video game ecosystem by making it easier for developers to sell their games, too.
“One store [across Windows PCs and Xbox consoles] . . . means a more streamlined submission experience for developers that will also offer new monetization scenarios that span across devices,” Orullian said. “Beginning with the Anniversary Update, the Windows Store now features new scenarios including the ability to pre-order games, bundles, purchase season passes and more.“
Microsoft is also working with PC makers for an increased gaming presence. For example, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube comes complete with built-in Xbox Wireless and VR capabilities right out of the box. “In the future, we plan to enable direct integration of Xbox Wireless into PC motherboards with our hardware partners,” Microsoft stated in a blog post.
There are currently 12 Xbox Play Anywhere titles available, with several more on the way. As the library grows, so will the potential for Xbox gamers to make Windows 10 their next platform of choice. Project Scorpio is also coming this holiday season, with specs that will keep all those cross-platform games looking pretty.