Remember how Microsoft told everyone how DirectX 12 wouldn’t be coming to Windows 7, and that one of the main benefits of upgrading to Windows 10 was access to the faster, more powerful low-level DirectX 12?
Well, that used to be the case. But then someone at Microsoft changed their mind, and found a way to get DX12 going in Windows 7 after all.
The surprise revelation was revealed on the official DirectX blog earlier this morning, via an announcement for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. In it, the Windows maker revealed that Blizzard had provided “feedback” to Microsoft that they wanted to offer performance gains to Windows 7 users who – by design, presumably – couldn’t access the benefits of DirectX 12.
“After seeing such performance wins for their gamers running DirectX 12 on Windows 10, Blizzard wanted to bring wins to their gamers who remain on Windows 7, where DirectX 12 was not available,” Microsoft wrote.
So you know what Microsoft did? In a bid to act on “every effort to respond to customer feedback” from Blizzard and other developers, Microsoft simply decided that they’d find a way to make the D3D12 runtime just, well, work:
At Microsoft, we make every effort to respond to customer feedback, so when we received this feedback from Blizzard and other developers, we decided to act on it. Microsoft is pleased to announce that we have ported the user mode D3D12 runtime to Windows 7. This unblocks developers who want to take full advantage of the latest improvements in D3D12 while still supporting customers on older operating systems.
Today, with game patch 8.1.5 for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard becomes the first game developer to use DirectX 12 for Windows 7! Now, Windows 7 WoW gamers can run the game using DirectX 12 and enjoy a framerate boost, though the best DirectX 12 performance will always be on Windows 10, since Windows 10 contains a number of OS optimisations designed to make DirectX 12 run even faster.
While Microsoft says that Windows 10 has a range of optimisations at the OS level to improve performance in video games, it’s worth remembering that gaming performance in Windows 7 was already pretty bloody good. User tests between the two OS’s showed that the difference in FPS between Windows 7 and Windows 10 was marginal – one or two frames at best – even though, for the most part, Windows 10 is a better memory manager.
Of course, all these tests were run with DirectX 11 games – because DirectX 12 wasn’t supposed to be available under Windows 7. But in an additional note, Microsoft says that they’re “currently working with a few other game developers to port their D3D12 games to Windows 7”, so that’s something gamers and the press will be able to test for themselves sometime soon.
It’s an interesting move, not only because Microsoft effectively went back on their word to a degree here, but because support for Windows 7 is scheduled to end as of January 14 next year. That’s not great for the more than 27% of users that are still using some form of Windows 7, according to the February Steam survey figures.
Windows 7 users will be getting regular prompts to upgrade from April this year, and the only way to get security fixes and patches after that time will require Extended Support Updates or Windows Virtual Desktop licenses, both of which are designed (and priced) for enterprise and corporate customers.