Windows 11 announced, features make a PC like an Xbox

Xbox Cloud Gaming

The next version of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 11 was announced today. Xbox corporate vice president Sarah Bond appeared on Microsoft’s announcement livestream to detail a number of features targeted toward PC gamers and presented the new OS as “the best Windows ever for gaming.” Many of those features find their origins in Xbox.

The new improvements include Auto HDR (high dynamic range), Direct Storage and DirectX 12 Ultimate. The Xbox app will also be built directly into Windows 11 and give Game Pass functionality deeper integration into the operating system. It will also offer Xbox Cloud Gaming for those who subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, the highest tier of their all-you-can-games subscription service.

Auto HDR allows SDR (standard dynamic range) games to run with HDR improvements on displays that support it. Games that were not built for HDR will appear brighter and more colorful, with wider contrast and detail all just by enabling Auto HDR on Windows 11. “We introduced this tech in our Xbox consoles and got an incredible response from developers and creators,” said Bond.

Bond said that “over 1,000 games — including Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Rocket League, DayZ, and even Doom 64 — will be automatically enhanced on Windows 11 devices that support HDR.” Just like on Xbox, Auto HDR won’t require any effort from developers or players. “It just works,” said Bond in what might be a clever stealing of words from Bethesda’s Todd Howard.

Direct Storage is also coming through Windows 11. Developed by Microsoft for the Xbox Velocity Architecture, the next-generation API allows for “amazing speed,” by loading graphics directly to the GPU without bogging down the CPU. Bond says this allows detailed game words to render at lightning speeds without long load times, which any one who uses an Xbox Series X can attest to.

“DirectStorage-optimized Windows 11 PCs are configured with the hardware and drivers needed to enable this amazing experience,” Bond said. As we get deeper into the new console generation, more and more games will be developed with PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage in mind. Microsoft’s support of DirectStorage will be necessary if PC gamers are to enjoy modern games at Series-level performance.

The company is also touting DirectX 12 Ultimate as a fundamental pillar for gaming on Windows 11, the next generation of their venerable game development API. DX12 Ultimate includes new features for developers such as Raytracing 1.1, variable rate shading, Sampler Feedback, and more.

While Windows 11 might have many other feature points to talk about and benchmarks to measure up to, as far as gaming is concerned it restates Microsoft’s commitment. Not just by continuing the support for Windows games, but by tying them up into the a singular cross-device ecosystem and using features and ideas pioneered on Xbox.