During Microsoft’s Windows 11 reveal event this morning, Xbox executive Sarah Bond took to the stream to talk about how the latest version of the operating system will bring powerful tools from the Xbox Series X/S to PC, including auto HDR and the super-speedy DirectStorage API.
The Xbox Series X and S have brought some outstanding innovations to the gaming space since the two consoles launched in November of last year, including ridiculously fast loading times and the ability to automatically apply high dynamic range effects to games that might otherwise not support the HDR feature. With the right hardware, Windows 11 will do both of those things as well.
Bond demonstrated the auto HDR feature using The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, because Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to forget it purchased Bethesda parent Zenimax Media for $US7.5 ($10) billion. Though HDR screenshots only work on an HDR-ready monitor, which mine is not, the screenshots do a passable job of demonstrating how much of a difference high dynamic range colours make in a gaming environment. It’s like day and a slightly darker day.
No demo was given for the DirectStorage API, but if you’ve seen how fast the Xbox Series X/S loads games, you get the general idea. Microsoft announced the application programming interface, originally designed for the Xbox Velocity Architecture, would be coming to PC last September. Now we know what form that will take. PCs containing supported hardware, which means certified super-fast SSD drives, will be able to enjoy games loading faster than ever before, as well as the ability to load larger game worlds without bogging things down thanks to speedy data transfer rates.
Finally there’s Game Pass: The biggest value in gaming today will have its own interface built into Windows 11. Subscribers of the PC version of Game Pass will have instant access to all of their games for download or streaming, along with quick access to the Xbox marketplace to buy games, if you’re into that sort of thing.
A lot of the tech stuff is hardware dependent. Don’t expect Windows 11 to magically make your older, slower hard drive faster. It’s not going to somehow grant your SDR monitor the power of HDR. That said, with the right hardware, Windows 11 could bring your PC gaming performance more in line with the Xbox Series X or, even better, readily surpass it.
Windows 11 is due out this holiday season, with early beta builds going out in the coming weeks to select insiders.