Windows 11 has been touted as “the best Windows ever for gaming”, and the changes that are being introduced along with it may prove it to be so yet. As Sarah Bond, Xbox’s CVP for game creator experience and ecosystem announced on Thursday during the event and later expanded in a blog post, Windows 11 will come “with superior graphics, amazing speed, and an incredible selection of games”.
All this is possible through three things – Auto HDR, DirectStorage, and deeper integration of the Xbox app (and thus the Game Pass as well) to Windows 11. Though the former two had already been featured in Xbox Series X and S, their introduction to Windows 11 will drastically improve PC gaming without any effort from the developers.
Here’s what these gaming features being introduced to Windows 11 mean for the future of gaming.
Auto HDR for better graphics
Auto HDR is an algorithmic tool designed “to render a much wider range of brightness values and colors, giving an extra sense of richness and depth to the image” in older titles that may not have HDR enabled. Already existing on Xbox Series X|S, auto HDR on Windows 11 will now give your games that extra bit of pop if they were built on DirectX 11 or higher. Of course, one will need to have an HDR-capable display to see the changes. Bond said that “over 1000 games… will be automatically enhanced on Windows 11 devices that support HDR.”
Side-by-side comparisons of games with and without HDR reflect the difference that this technology can bring to gaming at no extra effort from developers. Even at its barest, auto HDR will make the game more vibrant and modern-looking.
This feature was brought out to Windows Insider Preview in March earlier this year but HDR support has never been as seamless as one would expect from Windows. As such, news about auto HDR should also mean that Microsoft has improved HDR compatibility on the whole.
DirectStorage to improve load speeds
To ensure that high fidelity visuals don’t lead to high load times, Microsoft has also pushed the envelope on the DirectStorage technology. Essentially, DirectStorage will allow the games to “load assets to the graphics card without bogging down the CPU”. However, as is the case with Auto HDR, users will need to have PCIe 3.0 NVMe drives or PCIe 4.0 SSDs to leverage this feature and sidestep the CPU bottlenecks.
Although these types of drives are generally reserved for systems that are built with gaming as their main focus, this is expected to change quickly over the next few years. What this also means is that users will have to upgrade their hardware if they want to take advantage of this feature in the future.
Xbox app and Game Pass built into Windows 11
The last cog in the wheel is the deeper integration of the Xbox app and the Xbox Game Pass into Windows 11. Through it, users will have access to their complete Xbox Gaming Pass library on their PC instantly, given that they have a subscription for it.
Moreover, users that have Game Pass Ultimate “can also experience Xbox Cloud Gaming on Windows PCs via a browser. This means just about any Windows 11 PC will be able to run the latest console games. Much of it will take place, as announced earlier, with cloud gaming added directly into the Xbox app on PC, enabling players to take advantage of cross-play and cross-save features while playing their favorite games across devices.
These three gaming-centric features will work together to bring you the “best Windows ever for gaming”. One can see that Windows is laying down the groundwork for the future of PC gaming and championing the technologies that will make it happen. Some hardware upgrades will be warranted for users to make the best of gaming on their Windows 11 PCs.