We got our first proper look at Microsoft's plans for Windows 10 yesterday as the Redmond company unleashed a barrage of new information. For us gamers, it seems that Microsoft have a real opportunity to bring console and PC gaming together in a very real way, and to make the hideous mess that was Games For Windows Live a distant memory.
But are they up to the task? Here are some of our thoughts following the Windows 10 presentation...
After reflecting on yesterday’s presentation, I can’t help but feel that it wasn’t quite the “for PC gamers” presentation it was meant to be. Sure, there were some handy features that were mentioned, and the free upgrade to Win10 for Win 7 & 8 users is a fine gesture, but it just seems like every time they were about to seal the deal and blow us away they’d remind us that the real gaming experience was over on Xbox One. Sure, I’m exaggerating the situation a bit, but it really came across as Win10 devices being a companion to the Xbox One, for gamers at least.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t some good stuff to talk about, so let’s start with the positives. The built-in DVR functionality in Win10 will no doubt please those wanting to share their magical gaming moments with the internet. That said, unless there’s an ability to do live recording and/or streaming I can’t imagine content creators making it their tool of choice. With just a 30-second memory it’s more like SnapChat for gaming, but with less exhibitionism. Well, possibly. Don’t quote me on that.
The announcement of Fable Legends coming to PC as well as Xbox One wasn’t too shocking, but the reveal that cross-platform play is a thing was a welcome surprise. Sure, it has been done on previous consoles, but the acknowledgement that the two communities will be able to play together in a flagship franchise is a big deal that might foreshadow future releases. The brief chat about DirectX12 made all the right noises as well, with improved performance and ability to process complex scenes continuously. Then there was the announcement that gamers could stream their Xbox One games to any Win10 device, finally giving Xbox players an equivalent to the PS3/PS4’s Remote Play functionality. Admittedly, announcing the ability to stream PC games to the Xbox One would have made it a killer feature, but hey, I’m sure the functionality won’t go to waste.
Ultimately though, I can’t help but feel that to get the most out of what Phil Spencer was showing off I’d have to get an Xbox One, and that’s a shame. It should have demonstrated what PC gaming could do better than any console, but that wasn’t the case. In fairness though, the real game changer came with the reveal of HoloLens, but it’s early days on that topic, and a completely different conversation at that.
Are Microsoft taking PC gaming seriously again?
I want to believe. My Sidewinder Precision Pro stands as lonely testament to a company that used to be on the cutting edge, but then GFWL happened and the horror, oh God, the horror, kill it KILL IT.
Erm, sorry. So are Microsoft taking PC gaming seriously again?
Microsoft are certainly going all-out in terms of pushing the Xbox One. A new app will unite all Windows 10 devices, there'll be streaming (though is it streaming the wrong way? Surely streaming PC games to the Xbox One in the lounge would be just as useful?) and some cross-play games, though whether any of the big Xbox exclusives make the jump after Fable Legends is another matter. If Microsoft releases a slimmer cheaper Xbox One model, perhaps they could market it as a PC accessory?
That said, the rumblings about DX12 promising up to 50% performance gains is very pleasing indeed, and frankly, I'm still not a fan of Windows 8 on anything other than tablet devices. The fact that it's going to be free to upgrade for a year is also music to my ears. Let's just hope that the old joke about every other Windows version being terrible isn't true, because they're skipping Windows 9 altogether...
The baby steps continue, it seems.
The Windows 10 presentation was promising, but didn't really answer too many questions, and instead saddled us with a whole new batch. The DVR function on PC is nice but limited. It would have been good to see Microsoft try to match up to the service offered by the likes of FRAPS and OBS and Nvidia's Shadowplay. It's not a priority for them, clearly, but with more companies such as Razer looking into recording and streaming software, it would have been nice to see Microsoft step things up a bit.
The streaming is a nice touch, but it's better to think of it as Remote Play for the Xbox One rather than anything else. All it does is bring the Xbox One in line with the PS4 and the Wii U, which is a welcome move. However, I can't for the life of me fathom why Microsoft would ignore the bleeding obvious and not make the Xbox One capable of receiving a streamed signal from Windows 10 on PC. They literally have the technology, and it would give the Xbox One an absolutely killer unique selling point. Suddenly you have all of the exclusive gaming potential on the platform plus the optional power of PC. Remote Play is nice, but integrated PC-to-Xbox streaming would have been a drop the mic moment.
Maybe Phil will get to do that at E3.
The cross-platform stuff is nice, but as Spencer reiterated, it's really going to be left up to developers. There's no reason why games that aren't heavily predicated on mouse-and-keyboard play couldn't be made cross-platform compatible, but Microsoft need to demonstrate the advantages and the process needs to be accessible. This is the company that's still not sorted out their absurdly stupid parity clause buffoonery, and I'm not ruling out Microsoft needlessly sabotaging themselves again. We're entering an age of device-agnostic services and cloud-based, client-oriented applications. That's what Windows 10 is apparently based around... but in some areas such as gaming, that hasn't gone beyond the superficial yet. Microsoft have an opportunity to do that, but whether that comes to pass is an entirely different matter.