What’s New in Windows 11 for Gamers

Posted on June 24, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in PC gaming, Project xCloud, Windows 10, Xbox with 21 Comments

Microsoft’s newfound love of gaming will see several important Xbox/videogame innovations come to Windows 11.

“Gaming has always been fundamental to Windows,” Microsoft corporate vice president Sarah Bond writes. “We build Windows to be a magical place, where everyone can play, connect, and create. That’s why we’re delighted to bring you Windows 11, with superior graphics, amazing speed, and an incredible selection of games.”

Here’s what you can expect.

Auto HDR. This feature debuted in the Xbox Series X|S and Microsoft already announced that it’s coming to Windows as well. It automatically adds High Dynamic Range (HDR) enhancements to games that are built on DirectX 11 or newer and that previously only leveraged Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) color.

DirectStorage. Another Xbox Series X|S feature, DirectStorage requires a high-performance SSD drive and the right drivers, but it delivers dramatic performance improvements by quickly loading game assets to the graphics card without bogging down the CPU. “DirectStorage Optimized” Windows 11 PCs will be preconfigured with the right hardware and drivers.

Xbox Game Pass for PC. This subscription will be accessible via the Xbox app that will be included in Windows 11.

Xbox Cloud Gaming. Formerly called xCloud, this feature will also be available on Windows 11 PCs via the Xbox app and also through any supported web browser, including Microsoft Edge. “Even an entry-level [PC] can play the biggest Xbox console titles,” Microsoft says.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “What’s New in Windows 11 for Gamers”

  1. Avatar

    orbsitron

    If a good chunk (even a minority chunk) of gaming PCs with nVME drives upgrade to Windows 11, the install base for DirectStorage will really become interesting to developers. With supply shortages on XBOX Series, having a sizeable number of PC gamers who also can benefit from DirectStorage will make the investment in leveraging those APIs much more palatable to game studios. That could benefit both PC and XBOX Series games, in the end, if there's sufficient adoption on PC.

    • Avatar

      Maverick010

      Adoption is not the problem on the PC as gamers always push the envelope and upgrade and prices on 1TB nvme M.2 SSDs are coming down. Problem is the graphics card supply is hurting, due to miners/scalpers and the water shortage for the fabs making it significantly hard to get a hold of the new cards that support that tech. Due to a crash in Bitcoin/Ethereum, and it seems Nvidia and AMD may be killing off older graphics cards sooner to increase production of current cards, there may be hope at the end of the tunnel.

  2. Avatar

    Alastair Cooper

    So will DirectStorage need a dedicated SSD or can it use the same one as Windows is installed, or a partition on a shared device for example?

    • Avatar

      SWCetacean

      Nothing in the documentation seems to indicate the need for a dedicated SSD. DirectStorage works on the new Xboxes, and they ship with just a single NVMe drive that holds the OS too, so there is no reason for it to require a dedicated drive on Windows. As for a partition of a drive, that's an interesting question. My intuition says it will still work on a partition of a drive as long as the drive is 1 TB or more (since SSD performance is influenced by drive size and the corresponding increase in parallelism offered by more banks of cells rather than partition size). But you'll have to ask Microsoft for an actual answer.

      • Avatar

        Alastair Cooper

        My use case would be a 1TB Windows 11 partition at the start of a 4TB NVMe SSD so hopefully that will work. It's not the end of the world if I miss out on it though.


        I'm rather more annoyed that my i5 7300HQ in my laptop is blocked from Windows 11 and I'm not clear there's any actual technical reason this is necessary (this is an aside - I'll find somewhere more appropriate to rant about it). There are 6th generation Intel Core chips listed so I'm not clear what the issue is.

        • Avatar

          dftf

          If you refer to docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/compatibility/windows-11 it says if you have an older gen CPU the upgrade "is not advised", so you should still be able to install it. (Equally, apparently only a v1.2 TPM is required, not a v2.0)

  3. Avatar

    martinusv2

    One thing I find confusing, I cannot use my Game Pass for PC on xCloud. You have to get the xCloud Ultimate to have access to xCloud. Problem I see the games on xCloud are the same from xBox ones. So in my case, Fallout 4 for PC and Fallout 4 for xCloud are not same games. Or maybe, I am not understanding this right.

    • Avatar

      whistlerpro

      Probably best to think about Xcloud as a Remote Xbox console. If you can cross save between an Xbox console and your PC today, then you should be able to cross save between Xcloud and PC. It will vary depending on the game.

  4. Avatar

    MoopMeep

    Gaming has always been fundamental to windows? I thought the big thing with windows 95 was gaming and before that it didn’t exist? Who made directx, I kinda remember Microsoft buying it around then to go with windows 95

    • Avatar

      Jeremy Turnley

      MS made DirectX themselves, as a way to get DOS developers to more easily port/develop their games to Win95. It solved a wealth of issues that developers had to contend with under DOS, most notably the need to fit their executables inside the Extended Memory Block, which was rapidly becoming a barrier by the time DX came along. It also allowed unified hardware acceleration APIs for graphics, sound, and input, which was a boon in the cowboy days of competing sound and graphics cards (wait, what the heck is a Gravis Ultrasound and why do we need to support it?), each of which required game devs to create code to work with. Within a few months of release developers went from "we will stick with DOS" to "that's actually a good idea", and most games were running under Windows in a remarkably short period of time.

    • Avatar

      bettyblue

      I remember playing Falcon 3.0, Castle Wolfenstein and the original Doom on DOS 5.0. I ran those on a 286-12mhz I think.



      • Avatar

        MoopMeep

        but did you have the math coprocessor? Those were fun times

        • Avatar

          MoopMeep

          And falcon was definitely an amazing sim with impressive graphics at the time. Windows at the time wouldn’t be able to handle that, amazing how far windows has come

      • Avatar

        Jeremy Turnley

        Ah, the good old days, when you needed enough space in RAM to run games with the drivers for your sound card, because the built-in tool would leave you 1.1k short, you would end up spending 2 hours manually re-ordering all of the files, messing with IRQs, and then giving up and buying QEMM.


        Those days were not as good as I think they were, now that I think about it. :P

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      Starting at Windows 95, that’s 26 of the 36 years Windows has existed. This is a marketing pitch, not a historical document. :)

    • Avatar

      MoopMeep

      I’m vaguely remembering winG….. and I think it wasn’t good

  5. Avatar

    madthinus

    I have a feeling that the directstorage story is going to have a gotcha. PC gamers have been on SSDs for a long time. This has me worried.

    • Avatar

      SWCetacean

      Looked through the docs a bit more and found the full list of requirements for DirectStorage:


      1 TB or greater NVMe SSD: I suppose the size requirement could be considered a gotcha if you want, though it's probably for performance reasons since SSDs get faster with larger sizes. Anyone still using a SATA SSD is going to be left out, but we already knew that a year ago when this tech was announced for the new consoles. Probably some SSD upgrades will be in order if someone bought a smaller SSD.


      DirectX 12 Ultimate-compatible GPU: This might be the bigger sticking point as on the Nvidia side, only the RTX series (2000 and 3000) support DirectX 12 Ultimate in its entirety. Earlier GPUs support the original DirectX 12 features (like the new draw call dispatch model), but they don't support ray tracing, sampler feedback, or other Ultimate features. I do not believe DirectStorage was ever advertised as something independent of the GPU (given that the GPU will now take on the task of decompressing and organizing data direct from the SSD), so it's one of those cases where both GPU and storage need to be compatible with each other.


      So there, the only thing I could see being a "gotcha" in this case is the size requirement for the SSD. Everything else is just making sure the gear fits the requirements. And even that size requirement isn't really arbitrary. To me, gotcha means some arbitrarily limiting rule (like how Microsoft limits certain features to the Pro versions of Windows); a rule founded in performance considerations isn't really a gotcha in my book.

    • Avatar

      curtisspendlove

      I think DirectStorage is awesome. I’m looking forward to it. I already have two NVMe drives in my gaming rig.


      They are getting ever cheaper (well until the “crypto” boom crap). But they are still pretty close to SATA SSDs and not that much more expensive than spinning rust.

    • Avatar

      SWCetacean

      What do you mean gotcha? I really don't understand what there is to be worried about. Of course, not all SSDs will be compatible, only NVMe SSDs connected via PCIE 3 x4 or above will work (Xbox uses PCIE 4 x2 which has the same bandwidth as 3 x4), so that's the gotcha, but most gaming PCs built in the last 3 years should have an NVMe SSD, or at least be able to accept one.

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