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Microsoft is changing course, giving gamers a reason to stick with Windows 10

Microsoft has announced
Enlarge / Microsoft has announced “Xbox Velocity Architecture”
; to summarize a number of boost games for its latest consoles. The upcoming DirectStorage API is prepared to bring some of these benefits to Windows PCs, but now that it’s spread across two operating systems, with varying speed expectations on each, will it have the same impact?


Microsoft’s unveiling of Windows 11 in June came with announcements across the company’s many departments, including a warning from the company’s gaming division: you need Windows 11 to play games that use select “next-generation” APIs, especially the new DirectStorage API.

On Friday, the company’s DirectX team went back on that OS limitation.

“Microsoft is committed to ensuring that when game developers use a new API, they can reach as many players as possible,” writes DirectX Program Manager Hassan Uraizee, explaining that the upcoming DirectStorage API will no longer be Windows 11-exclusive. This statement comes with Microsoft’s launch of a DirectStorage preview program that allows developers to immediately begin testing this feature in intensive 3D software. The API redirects, among other things, I / O codes for 3D graphics assets directly to the computer’s GPU.

How “full” is “full potential”?

Uraizee’s post says that another previously announced DirectStorage pillar, a jump to higher speed SSD storage, has also moved to “optional” territory. In essence, Microsoft now claims that developers can expect all game load pipelines built on DirectStorage to be scaled down to lower-performance computers, while still benefiting from OS-level adjustments such as decompressing assets via the GPU, largely aided by DirectX’s Agility SDK, which can be dropped into different versions of Windows (Win10 version 1909 and later) and works without expected conflict with other OS elements. Still, Windows 11’s storage stack upgrades “will be exclusive to that operating system, and thus Uraizee says players want Windows 11 to have access to the” full potential “of DirectStorage.

But one of DirectStorage’s implicit sales pitches is the ability to design real-time 3D worlds that revolve around a revolutionary I / O approach – one where wide-open landscapes and detailed elements no longer need to be hidden by in-game deception (ie waiting in an elevator or crawls through a thin passage). Uraizee’s brief explanation does not draw a line in the sand on how DirectStorage and the Win10 and Win11 variants will or will not affect such ambitions for PC games.

“DirectStorage-enabled games will continue to run as well as they always have, even on PCs that have older storage hardware (such as hard drives),” he writes, but “as well as they always have” is a definite last generation description. When we look at more ambitious console exclusions for the Xbox Series X / S and PlayStation 5, whose specifications include aggressive SSD and I / O standards, we’ll see if Uraizee’s optimism will apply to the game’s PC ports on slower storage systems.

Either way, this is a big walkback from Microsoft’s previous announcements about DirectStorage. Perhaps Microsoft noticed how many interested gamers’ PCs failed last month’s Windows 11 compatibility test – either due to a lack of solid state media or a motherboard that failed to control the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) – and encrypted to guarantee that DirectX 12 Ultimate ambitions are not further limited. The DX12U already requires more modern GPUs, including Nvidia’s RTX 2000 and 3000 families and AMD’s RDNA 2 line, and in a chip shortage universe, the uptake of compatible GPUs has been slow.

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