As rumors and Microsoft itself suggested, what it shared about it’s plans for Windows 10 and Xbox Live at the Windows 10 Media Briefing in January was just the beginning. Today, the company is talking more about its plans, including a new accessories for Windows 10 games and the ability for users to purchase a single game and have it available in other places.
Xbox head Phil Spencer talked more about the Windows 10 version of Xbox Live and more today at GDC 2015. That’s the video game developer conference that platform makers and game developers get together at every year. All told, the announcements point to Microsoft making one big play for PC gamers.
We already knew that Windows 10 would be free to users who have Windows 7 and Windows 8 installed on their PC, but Microsoft is now sharing why users would actually want to make the upgrade as detailed by Xbox Wire. Spencer told a packed audience this morning that Microsoft plans on enabling cross-platform purchases on its store when Windows 10 launches for both the Xbox One and PCs. This new option will let users purchase a game on their Xbox One and actually play it on their Windows 10 equipped PC. That’s big, as this solves one of the key problems that would have cropped up when Xbox games surfaced on Windows 10 in a big way.
Beyond that, Microsoft is continuing to push the idea that Windows 10 PCs will be treated just like Xbox One consoles. At the January event we saw an early look at the Xbox app. Today, Spencer talked more about the parts of Xbox Live users won’t see. Microsoft is calling this the Xbox Live SDK and it’s says it’s already available to some developers today. Pretty much, the Xbox Live SDK is the matchmaking, leaderboards, DLC and other systems that are currently available on the Xbox One today. Windows 10 games uploaded to the Windows Store should come just as fully featured as their Xbox One counterparts.
Microsoft says it’ll introduce a “new tier of Xbox Live” for independent developers and hobbyists. Developers will only have to pass through a single gateway to get their titles on Xbox One and Windows 10. That’s very important as Microsoft has been criticized for not providing enough support to independent developers in the past. To meet that challenge head-on the Xbox’s ID@Xbox program for independent developers is coming to Windows 10 too.
Beyond that Microsoft is promising a 20% boost in performance for Windows gaming PCs and Windows 10 thanks to its upcoming DirectX 12 technology. It isn’t yet clear if games already available will see the boost immediately after release.
Finally, all Windows 10 PCs will get first-class Xbox One accessory support. This means that users will be able to use their controllers and other accessories for Xbox One on their Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft is kicking the initiative off with a wireless adapter that will allow Windows 10 PCs to communicate with the Xbox One controller. Today, connecting the two with a microUSB is the only way to do this.
All told, todays news wasn’t completely unexpected, but still landmark. Officially, Microsoft is making a huge play in the PC gaming space, one that could change the nature of video games as we know them. Neither Sony nor Nintendo have a huge presence in the space. Right now, it’s dominated by Valve. Valve already has plans to infiltrate the console gaming space with third-party Steam Machines and its custom Steam Controller.
Windows 10 isn’t expected to launch until late in 2015. Microsoft should have more to share at it’s BUILD 2015 event in April.