Microsoft's Sarah Bond explained just why Windows 11 (opens in new tab) is going to "deliver the best PC gaming experiences yet" during the 'What's Next for Windows' livestream on Thursday, and expanded on that statement in a new blog post (opens in new tab) on Xbox.com. Bond is basing her assertion on the three pillars of "superior graphics, amazing speed, and an incredible selection of games."
With AutoHDR a game doesn't even need to have built-in support for HDR to improve its looks, DirectStorage is bringing modern SSD speed to gaming, and with full Xbox Games Pass integration a whole world of games will be at your fingertips with Windows 11. Well, if you have a subscription anyway.
The new version of Microsoft's flagship OS, Windows 11 will launch in time for the holidays (opens in new tab) this year. Chief product office Panos Panoy claimed that "If you're a gamer, Windows 11 was made for you."
Which maybe feels a little hyperbolic to me, but we'll let that slide. He's enthusiastic, that's cool.(opens in new tab)
AutoHDR: "superior graphics"
AutoHDR was a feature that was introduced into the Windows Insider builds (opens in new tab) back in March this year. Essentially it adds high dynamic range (HDR) enhancements to a standard dynamic range (SDR) game, so long as it was built using DirectX 11 or higher.
The feature allows a game to render more levels of brightness and more colours than it otherwise would, "giving an extra sense of richness and depth to the image."
It's something that was first introduced into the Xbox Series X/S consoles and will come straight into Windows 11. Bond showed the effect in play using Skyrim, so potato-faced peoples can look brighter than ever.(opens in new tab)
DirectStorage: "amazing speed"
DirectStorage is another feature introduced with the latest consoles, and leverages the power and performance of NVMe SSDs to shunt assets directly to the GPU, side-stepping any potential CPU bottlenecks that might otherwise occur.
This will only be available on Windows 11, but it will mean game worlds can be rendered "at lightning speeds without long load times."
The Xbox blog post does also mention that "'DirectStorage Optimized' Windows 11 PCs are configured with the hardware and drivers needed to enable this amazing experience." That presumably will indicate that if you're running a Windows 11 machine that doesn't come with a performance NVMe SSD, you won't get access to the feature.
We know DirectStorage will work with PCIe 3.0 SSDs (opens in new tab), however, and not just the latest PCIe 4.0 drives.(opens in new tab)
Xbox Game Pass: "incredible selection of games"
The final piece of Bond's puzzle is the full integration of the Xbox app being built into Windows 11, and therefore instant access to the Xbox Game Pass library from your PC. Should you have a subscription, anyway.
With Game Pass Ultimate you also get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming on your PC via your browser, so almost any Windows 11 PC will be able to play the latest console games.
There are other features coming to Windows 11, like Android app access via the revamped Store (opens in new tab), and a whole new UI. But it's the gaming side that interests us most, so we're keen to see how effective AutoHDR and DirectStorage end up being for the PC.