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Intel taps Microsoft to take care of older DX9 game support with its Arc GPUs

Intel Arc Alchemist graphics card render on a dark background.
(Image credit: Intel)
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Intel has officially removed native DX9 support from its Arc and 12th Gen graphics hardware. You might now be wondering where that leaves older games in your library that still utilise the ageing API. There's nothing to fear, Intel isn't ending DX9 support completely, it's instead differing bug testing and support to Microsoft and its D3D9On12 emulation layer.

Intel is ditching its native DX9 driver and will call on Microsoft's D3D9On12 (opens in new tab) mapping layer when required. This layer essentially takes DX9 commands and translates them to DX12 commands, thus cutting out a whole stack of driver optimisations that Intel would have otherwise needed to build for itself.

Think of it in a similar vein to how Valve's Proton compatibility layer converts DirectX commands to Vulkan API commands, in order to make gaming on the Steam Deck (opens in new tab) a whole lot simpler.

"12th generation Intel processor's integrated GPU and Arc discrete GPU no longer support D3D9 natively," a support page on the Intel website (opens in new tab) says (via Tom's Hardware (opens in new tab)). Applications and games based on DirectX 9 can still work through Microsoft* D3D9On12 interface."

This should work in Intel's favour, as the company has admitted it is struggling with APIs that are older than the more recent DX12 and Vulkan APIs on its latest Arc GPUs.

"It's just going to be a labor of love for forever making DX11 titles better and better and better. And DX9 as well," says Intel's Tom Peterson. "But then Vulkan and DX12 titles are just, in general, going to be more optimised for Intel GPUs as we start to have a larger footprint."

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With this compatibility layer from Microsoft, Intel can effectively set aside efforts on DX9 titles and instead refer to Microsoft's expertise with its own API to optimise these games instead.

"Since DirectX is property of and is sustained by Microsoft, troubleshooting of DX9 apps and games issues require promoting any findings to Microsoft Support so they can include the proper fixes in their next update of the operating system and the DirectX APIs," Intel says.

Though Intel does still need to figure out DX11 support, and that is by far the more important piece of the Arc driver puzzle that Intel needs to figure out. Many popular and modern games still rely on the DX11 API, so making that work with Arc will be one key to any success it hopes to achieve.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog from his hometown in Wales in 2017. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, where he would later win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Nowadays, as senior hardware editor at PC Gamer, he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. When he's not writing about GPUs and CPUs, however, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.