The last few Windows 10 preview builds have included some vague instructions from Microsoft to install a special edition of a game, , and report any problems with the process. There are no problems with playing the game but, rather, problems with installing and launching it. The instructions didn’t give any indication as to why or what to look for.
Naturally, people have been taking a closer look to see what’s special about and figure out why Microsoft is having Windows Insiders test it. Nazmus Khandaker, Rafael Rivera, and the pseudonymous WalkingCat have been poking around both the special edition of and a helper application called Microsoft Gaming Services that insider machines are running. Brad Sams wrote up his findings.
Ever since the first Xbox was released, an obvious question has been hanging in the air: Microsoft already owns one of the premier gaming platforms, the PC, and both the original Xbox and the current Xbox One are more or less PCs anyway, so when is Microsoft going to bring the two together and let us play Xbox games on Windows? With the new Windows 10 builds, it looks like the company is taking some big steps in that direction.
Microsoft has put big chunks of the Xbox infrastructure into Windows 10. This starts right from the moment you download the game: it’s coming from the Xbox distribution servers, not the usual ones for Store apps. The game package itself uses a format called .xvc, which is used for Xbox One games, and there are PowerShell commands to work with these .xvc files and install .xvc games. Microsoft Gaming Services includes portions of this Xbox infrastructure; it includes a couple of drivers (“Microsoft Gaming Filesystem Driver” and “Microsoft Gaming Install Filter Driver”), along with a number of libraries that provide Xbox APIs.
The package does nonetheless contain PC-oriented elements. In particular, it tries to install and update the DirectX runtime during its setup. We the users don’t seem to be at the stage of simply running Xbox games unmodified on our PCs, or at least, not yet. But it looks as if the groundwork is being laid. The strange preview of a 2020 Windows release looks like it contains even more of this infrastructure, with signs of a layer to support Xbox’s Direct3D variant on PC.
Ars has written before about how Microsoft has built a common Windows platform, “OneCore” to drive Surface Hub, Xbox, HoloLens, and certain classes of IoT devices, as well as servers, PCs, and tablets. A similar effort is underway in the gaming space under the label GameCore. As part of the GameCore effort, Microsoft is building a common set of system services and APIs that should make targeting the Xbox easier for developers on the PC, or vice versa. This could shake out in a couple of different ways; Microsoft could go the whole hog and simply make a Windows 10 PC with a suitable hardware spec into an Xbox that can play any Xbox game; it might just be there as a simple option for developers to enable if they choose.