What Windows 10 offers gamers

Some of the games detected by the Xbox App
Credit: Microsoft

As you all know, Windows 10 launched yesterday. There's been plenty of discussion of the business and work aspects of the new OS, but I'm going to talk about what gamers can expect to find.

Even though I am a "Windows Insider" my desktop machine didn't get queued up for the automatic upgrade (my Surface Pro did) so I decided to download the Windows 10 Installer and force the issue. It worked but it took quite some time which unfortunately means I haven't had time to thoroughly test everything I'm going to discuss. Consider this a preliminary post.

So first let's look at what Windows 10 brings to PC gamers. In the long run, DirectX 12 is the big news since it's supposed to improve graphics performance. Most of your current games won't take advantage of that yet, so for now we'll set that aside.

More immediately, Windows 10 now has an Xbox App that should act as a launcher for your games as well as offering 'Game DVR' and screenshot capture capability. Basically Microsoft is trying to provide functionality similar to what the Xbox One offers.

When you first run the Xbox App it will detect some, none or maybe all of your games. Everyone I've talked to has had a different experience. It'll probably pick up all the games you downloaded from the Windows Store but beyond that, there seems to be no rhyme or reason. For me it picked up some, but not all, of my Steam games, some Origin games and a few other games that don't run through a service. If you want to add the games it missed you can do so pretty easily.

In theory once you run a game this way you can bring up a "game bar" by hitting Windows+G. This game bar will let you record game clips or screenshots. You can also access these features via hotkeys. For instance Windows+Alt+G should save the last few moments of your game as a clip.

The bad news is that it doesn't seem to work with many titles, or I've just been unlucky with the titles I've tried. I've been playing a lot of Skyforge lately and that was the first game I tried. No joy. None of the hotkeys worked. Same thing with my Steam copy of Dirt 3. The keys worked with Star Wars: The Old Republic but only audio was recorded. Both videos and screenshots showed a black screen.

That's not to say it never works. The last game I tried was Blizzard's Hearthstone and there I was able to save both game clips and recordings. But still all wasn't perfect; I wasn't able to share them via the Xbox App because I was told "we don't recognize the game." This was followed by the helpful suggestion that I play something newer.

The bottom line is, Microsoft has a lot of work ahead of them with these Game DVR functions and if you're considering updating to Windows 10 to take advantage of them, don't bother yet. This stuff is definitely still in beta form.

The other major feature is for Xbox One owners. You can stream your Xbox One games to Windows 10. For the most part this works quite well. I did have to turn the Xbox One on for Windows 10 to be able to 'discover' it initially but once the PC and Xbox were 'paired' I could turn the console on and off from Windows. It also seems you'll need an Xbox One controller (when I tried using a wired Xbox 360 controller things got wonky fast) and for now you'll have to use a USB cable to connect. (Microsoft will have a Wireless Adapter available this fall.)

The only downside to streaming from the Xbox One is that the console acts as if you're sitting in front of it. If, like me, you have the Xbox One set up to turn on the TV, A/V receiver and cable box whenever it powers on, all those devices will turn on when you connect from your PC. It's not a huge issue but something to be aware of and hopefully MS will eventually make the Xbox One 'smarter' about how it's being turned on. It's also worth noting that streaming takes over the Xbox One, so don't think a family member can be watching Netflix on the Xbox One while you're streaming a game to your PC.

So bottom line, and again this is all very preliminary, but if you want to upgrade to Windows 10 so you can stream games from your Xbox One to your PC then you should do so right away. It works quite well. But if you were considering upgrading to get Game DVR features for your PC games, I'd hold off for now. That system still needs a lot of work.

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