Hands-On with the New Xbox App for Windows 10

Posted on June 10, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Windows 10 with 24 Comments

Xbox Game Pass for PC is key to Microsoft’s new strategy for Windows 10 gaming. And there’s a new Xbox app that makes it all happen.

Oh, the confusion.

As Windows 8 morphed into Windows 10, Microsoft rethought the Xbox apps that it bundled with the operating system. The entertainment titles, Xbox Music and Xbox Video, were rebranded as Groove Music and Microsoft Movies & TV, respectively. But the Xbox gaming apps, Xbox and Xbox One SmartGlass, simply continued forward.

Yes, they were updated over time, or at least the Xbox app was. But it was kind of a confusing mess, and still is. It’s now rebranded as Xbox Console Companion in a bid, I think, to more clearly identify what it is and what it does.

With that rebranding, Microsoft has also announced a new Xbox app, and it’s available now in beta form. The new Xbox app is literally new. It’s not a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) or Store app, it’s a web application, just like a PWA, that is downloaded from the web. Just in case you didn’t get the memo about UWP being dead. Which it is.

More important, at least to Xbox fans, the new Xbox app has a new purpose. It will still provide the social (friends lists, messaging) and store functionality from what is now called the Xbox Console Companion, but it will also provide gamers with a front-end to the new Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription.

It looks a lot like the Epic Games app to me, and that’s a compliment. It’s simple and clean, which is possible when you only have to deal with the roughly 100 games that are available via Xbox Game Pass and not the many, many thousands available via the broader Xbox Store. (Yes, you can access the full PC games library via the Store tab.)

That it defaults to a Game Pass view is, of course, by design: This is the central point of the app, and it lets subscribers browse the current selection in various ways, find the games they wish to play, and download and install them.

Testing this as I am on a non-gaming PC, I decided to stick to some of the lighter titles. So, Oxenfree, a game I own on multiple platforms and something of a known quantity, presented a good test. The game’s page in the store provides a prominent Install button, and because my PC has two drives, I was given a download location choice as well. That’s nice, but it didn’t tell me how much space the game requires, which would have helped with the decision.

Beyond that, you get the expected video demos and screenshots, system requirements and recommended system specifications, Mixer clips (when available), and a tile-based list of related or similar games, like Ruiner (which is a “brutal action shooter” that is nothing like Oxenfree), Ori and the Blind Forest (better), Thimbleweed Park, and more.

Install, for this particular game, took barely a few minutes, and I was able to launch the game directly from the Xbox app. It ran in a window by default, which is curious, and I was presented with the notification for the new version of the Xbox Game Bar in Windows 10 1903.

As expected, the game also appears in the Start menu and can be launched directly.

As you install games, they’re added to a column on the left side of the Xbox app so that they can be accessed quickly. I think a “My Games” tab would have made more sense, but the installed games column does at least feature nice image thumbnails for each game.

From what I can tell, the Xbox app provides access to both Store-based and Win32/desktop games in a further blurring of the role of the Microsoft Store in Windows 10. As you may recall, Microsoft said at Build last month that it would make Store apps available outside of the Store and in competing stores; this is the first example of how this will work.

Beyond Xbox Game Pass, you can also use the app’s Store experience to browse the games in the Microsoft Store, and you can purchase games that are not part of Xbox Game Pass. For example, Wolfenstein II: Deluxe Edition is not included in Xbox Game Pass, but as a subscriber, you can purchase it at a reduced price of $63.99; non-subscribers will pay $79.99. (Another edition of this game, called Wolfenstein II: Standard Edition, is available with Xbox Game Pass.)

This app is a breath of fresh air, and unlike the unwieldy Xbox Console Companion app, it’s clean, simple, and easy to use. I like it quite a bit, and only wish that Microsoft had figured out this path years ago. In retrospect, it’s not just necessary, it’s obvious.

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “Hands-On with the New Xbox App for Windows 10”

  1. Vladimir Carli

    Does anyone know if the beta is US only or available in other countries as well? It requires an update to 1903 and I would avoid forcing the update if the app doesn’t work in Sweden

  2. robinwilson16

    To answer the premium question, it works for me in the UK and I just subscribed for the £1 trial for a month from within the new app.


  3. Rob_Wade

    In reply to sdfsdfsdf:

    What qualifies as "looking horrendous" is very subjective. I have yet to find a PWA that doesn't look horrendous to me, for example. Quite a few W32 programs look horrible to me, too. Conversely, I find a fair number of UWP apps that look great to me. As I said, it's very subjective.

  4. justme

    I dont know. For me, this is wait and see what is officially released. I certainly will not be subscribing to XBox Game Pass for PC as I much prefer to own my games (Steam and Gog sales take enough money out of my wallet.) I also dont game socially, so any social aspects to the app would be decidedly ignored (in fact, turned off if that is even possible) by me.

  5. RonV42

    You have to be updated to 1903 May 2019 update to run this. My laptop cannot receive this update due to Intel video issues according to the windows release status page. And I wanted to test the beta out.

  6. mrdrwest

    Paul, does this web app use UWP services?


    I'm guessing it doesn't since UWP is dead, right?

  7. Rob_Wade

    Yikes. This thing eats over a GB of RAM just idle on my Surface Pro 6. They've got a ways to go on the beta. So, it sort of reminds me of Steam, although it's much less useful. I don't do social on gaming, so that's an aspect I don't care about. I only do FPS and flight/space sim games...there are only 9 choices, apparently, none of which I'm interested in. Went into the Store tab. Sadly, you do NOT have the GENRE options that exist in the Game Pass tab. That's a fail. And a quick search in the Store for either of the only two games I own, Destiny and Elite Dangerous, don't come up. So....this is of no value to me.

  8. pete

    I signed up for Game Pass Ultimate, but I initially could not find this new app in the Microsoft Store. (It's there now.) Luckily you can still install Game Pass games directly from the store without this new Xbox app.


    Why do the new Win32 games require administrator access for installation? That defeats the purpose of the Microsoft Store. What a mess.

  9. dontbe evil

    enjoy your 500mb electron app in idle...


    "This app is a breath of fresh air, and unlike the unwieldy Xbox Console Companion app, it’s clean, simple, and easy to use. I like it quite a bit, and only wish that Microsoft had figured out this path years ago. In retrospect, it’s not just necessary, it’s obvious."


    this is just because is not a UWP right?


    "The new Xbox app is literally new. It’s not a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) or Store app, it’s a web application, just like a PWA, that is downloaded from the web. Just in case you didn’t get the memo about UWP being dead. Which it is."


    ah right... you always like to push on this

    www.windowscentral.com/uwp-developers-christen-annual-launch-event-major-mytube-update-3-new-apps

    www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-uwp-not-dead-evolved

    www.neowin.net/news/uwp-developers-unite-to-prove-the-platform-isnt-dead

  10. dontbe evil

    In reply to sdfsdfsdf:

    That way apps can use UWP-features without looking horrendous.


    BHUAHAUHAUAHUAHAUA


    you're free to design your UI as you want indipendently if it's win32 or UWP ... now say that iTunes is cool and groove horrendous for example


    P.S.

    All apps in the store are UWP, win32 apps could be made in some differente ways, what your'e trying to define horrendous are UWA (universal windows apps, or if you find easier native UWP)

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