Does Windows 11 Go Far Enough for Gaming?
Windows 11 is for gaming – that’s what Microsoft want us to believe anyway. And it’s true, a lot of the biggest features from the Xbox Series consoles are leaping across to PCs.
Announced yesterday and expected to be released in the Autumn, current Windows users will receive the latest numbered Microsoft opeating system as a free update. Windows 11 brings with it support for Auto HDR, DirectStorage, native Android apps and more options within the Xbox app. Your games will look nicer, load faster and be easier to find.
These are certainly improvements – but is it enough?
Windows 11 – Matching Features
Yes, in many ways Windows 11 is going to be just as good a place to play Microsoft’s games as Xbox Series X. Hell, most games, thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful Auto HDR feature.
This is by design, of course. Xbox executives have, time and time again, spoken about making sure people can play in as many places as possible. Furthermore, all Xbox games will be released day one on PC. We’re not quite there when it comes to the other way around, but hopefully time will change that.
DirectStorage will ensure that nobody is going to be left behind by bringing the important part of Xbox Series X tech to anybody with a 1TB NVME SSD. DirectStorage allows assets to load directly to the graphics card, bypassing the CPU. If all this sounds like marketing speak and tech talk, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Summed up, any game that uses this stuff on Xbox will work just as well on PC (again, if not better). As far as we know, nothing is making use of it yet, however we’ve seen some gorgeous looking upcoming games that may well rely on it.
GamePass continues to be the best deal in gaming. That’s not going to change anytime soon. That includes the upcoming addition of cloud gaming on PC. So long as you have a strong enough internet connection, you’ll be able to play console games through your Xbox app. To start off with, that’ll be select GamePass titles that haven’t made the jump across. But who knows? There’s bound to come a point where you can play anything you own via the cloud without too much trouble.
The big surprise announcement was that Android apps will work natively in Windows 11. That’ll work through the Amazon App Store.
In terms of direct usage, this is a strange one, although obviously very welcome. It’s not like there aren’t native apps or webpages for the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp or, well, anything you care to think of.
However, for gamers this could be huge. Any game with controller support suddenly becomes playable on PC. It doesn’t take long to find a “mobile” game that isn’t available on PC, but which really deserves to be.
So the question is: does all this go far enough? It’s a good start, but there’s more to do.
Windows 11 – Further Fixes
There are things that Steam just does, and that’s why it’s the home of PC gaming. There are features that you don’t even know about that do what they do every time without concern. You don’t have to even think about it.
Unfortunately the Windows Store is not nearly in the same position.
The Xbox app, which is run via the Windows Store, is good enough for lighter users, but power users are not happy. Simple things like game installations being hidden away in inaccessible Windows-only files, modding support and problems with uninstalling are all major problems that come up time and time again.
And Windows 11 half solves some of these issues. Developers will be able to upload their software in other, more regular formats, unlike those currently used by the Windows Store. But not enough was made of that in the announcement video, and that shows which way Microsoft’s butter is still breaded. It means there probably won’t be mass updates to older games, freeing them from the shackles of UWP.
On the surface, Windows 11 will enable great games to be played at their very best – that’s what PC gaming is all about.
But with PC gamers still frustrated over these issues, it seems Steam will still be the default platform of choice. Even with Game Pass.
Of course, if rumours of Game Pass on PC come to pass, Microsoft can have their cake and eat it. But they should probably try and put out some of these fires before trying to grow too big.