DirectStorage (opens in new tab), the speedy Xbox technology that Microsoft widely released to developers this month, will do more than load your games quickly from an NVMe SSD. According to Cooper Partin, senior software engineer at Microsoft, it'll free up your CPU too.
In a video detailing how DirectStorage works, Partin said the Windows version was tailored to make better use of PC hardware compared to the Xbox version. The Windows 11 version (Windows 10 users will get a less optimized version) utilizes your hardware, primarily your GPU and CPU, to process several small bits of information from your SSD at once, resulting in faster load times. It streamlines the process of taking compressed data from a game, uncompressing it, and rendering it on your GPU and makes it all happen simultaneously. Game assets like textures, environments, and characters load in much faster as a result, and the efficiency of the process puts less demand on your PC's hardware.
"DirectStorage is designed for modern gaming systems," Partin said. "It handles smaller reads really efficiently, and you can batch things together to get more work done. When fully integrated with your title, DirectStorage, with an NVMe SSD on Windows 11, reduces the CPU overhead in a game by 20 to 40%. This is attributed to the advancements made in the file IO stack on Windows 11, and the improvements on that platform in general."
It could only get better too. Right now, the CPU is still a substantial part of the pipeline for the way DirectStorage has to take assets and uncompress them before they're fully loaded into the game. In a future update, your GPU will do all the compression tasks to relieve the CPU of its duties, freeing it up even more.
With many people capturing footage of their gameplay or streaming it live, this could be huge for PCs that aren't packing one of the best gaming CPUs (opens in new tab).
DirectStorage's blessings sound great, but it'll be a while before you can regularly make use of them. Right now, we only know of one PC game that utilizes the tech. Forspoken, which will be out in October, might be the first game with DirectStorage that you'll get to play. The open world action game's load times will go from an average of 10 seconds with a SATA SSD to 1 second with DirectStorage on an NVMe SSD, according to a recent GDC talk (opens in new tab) developer Luminous Productions gave. Now your PC won't run out of breath trying to run it either. All the more reason to upgrade to an NMVe drive (opens in new tab) if you haven't yet.