With the Windows Anniversary Edition, Microsoft has detailed some upcoming improvements for gaming. They even brought Phil Spencer out to announce the upcoming plans for gaming on Windows. The emphasis they are putting on gaming in the last while is quite a change, and gaming on both Xbox and PC is a much bigger focus for Microsoft than in the recent history. That’s not a big surprise, since the gaming industry is one of the few bright spots in the PC market, and with the recent release of consumer virtual reality headsets, there’s a big opportunity here for all parties to improve and update the hardware and software.

Right off the bat, Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox team, announced that the Universal Windows Platform would be a better platform for game developers, as well as users. On the user side, system security should be a lot more robust thanks to the sandboxed application platform used on UWP, and apps can be easily installed through the store, and removed without much fuss. Phil also announced that the UWP will be updated in May to bring the ability for end users to disable V-Sync, and it will support G-SYNC and FreeSync monitors as well. Notably, this means the sync changes will be coming ahead of the summer Anniversary update, and from what we understand this is something the DirectX team has taken to heart, which is why they have been working to get it pushed out as quickly as possible.

Right now, this is likely one of the biggest issues with UWP for gaming on true gaming titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider. Microsoft has caught a lot of flack over this issue since the game launched, and it’s a basic setting that PC gamers are used to being able to adjust so this is good news. In addition, they will support multi-GPU solutions later on, possibly with the summer update to Windows.

If they want to be a serious platform for gaming, I think these are good steps, but there is plenty they can do to mimic the other platforms. With the massive install size of games, they need to be able to let people specify where the games are stored. You can work around this now, but it is clunky. They also need the ability to backup and restore games. It’s great I can uninstall Rise of the Tomb Raider quickly, but if I do want it back I have to download the entire 50 GB again. But still, even this one change is a good step, but it’s really the first step.

The big announcement for Xbox One is that it will finally get access to the Windows Store coming with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. That means by the summer, people will be able to install UWP apps onto the Xbox One, enabling a whole host of new possibilities. Apps like Netflix would then be able to share a common app with Windows 10, and companies like MLB will be able to share the Xbox One app with Windows 10. But all developers will be able to target the Xbox which will enable things I’ve never thought of.

In order for developers to target Xbox and actually debug and test their applications on the big screen, the Xbox One is gaining a developer mode, allowing anyone to use their Xbox One as a dev kit. Microsoft demoed this, and first an app has to be installed to enable this, and register the Xbox as a dev kit. You can then use Visual Studio to do a remote session on the Xbox by supplying its IP address, and the app will compile and run remotely.

Xbox will also be gaining some other new features with the update, including the ability to use Cortana for voice recognition. Right now the Xbox supports basic commands over voice, such as Xbox Pause, but Cortana should enable a much broader interaction with natural language. Just like on Windows, you would be able to ask Cortana to watch Fuller House on Netflix, rather than the step by step process required now.

In addition, the native controls for UWP apps will support controller input, just like they already support keyboard, mouse, touch, and pen, so no extra work will be required by the dev to enable this interaction.

Microsoft said they will have more to announce at E3.

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  • zepi - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    I wonder how UWP apps really handle the security.

    Netflix app running in a Xbox is obviously quite a bit more secured from decryption key captures compared to something running in a virtualised Windows 10 on top of some hypervisor completely controlled by owner of the machine.
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    I don't see how that's really an issue. There's already a Netflix app for Windows 10. My point was that Netflix could merge the two apps into a shared code app (and they likely already do share a lot of it)
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    I'm interested to see how this goes...it should also mean you can basically write a program and have it run on Windows Mobile too...
  • Michael Bay - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    It`s kind of the whole point with UWP, yes.
  • Frenetic Pony - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    If you have GPU access, like all games do, you're not really "secure" other than being able to only run signed code. Which, since they're restricting it to only store approved apps, is the idea I guess.
  • inighthawki - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    In Windows, video memory is inaccessible outside of the process, so accessing any secure content from a video stream would first require access to the process itself. If the process is securely sandboxed, then you do not have GPU access. Unless you meant something else?
  • JamesU - Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - link

    They're not restricting UWP to be store signed. It's just an AppX package and can be installed just like an MSI or EXE can now. It's just that it doesn't interact with the registry, is sandboxed and can be uninstalled cleanly. Steam could in theory distribute these packages, it's just they'd be Windows 10 only.
  • Valantar - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    I wonder if the Xbox One will get full Store access. If so, it might just have become the best solution for students in need of a work + gaming machine through Office UWAs. Or just for companies in need of cheap office computers.
  • Michael Bay - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    I doubt they`ll allow that degree of cannibalization.
  • Ikefu - Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - link

    I've read that UWP apps will be able to be sold through "other stores" via quotes from other talks at Build. That seems like a HUGE step forward since this enables them to be sold through Steam.

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