Windows 11 has Xbox Game Pass.

Presenting Windows 11 as "the best Windows ever for gaming," Xbox corporate vice president Sarah Bond appeared on Microsoft's Livestream to announce that Xbox Game Pass will be "built right into Windows 11." Microsoft has been testing this functionality for many months with a redesigned Xbox app for Windows 10, but clips of the Windows 11 version that Bond showed seemed to indicate a deeper integration.

Microsoft announced Thursday that Windows 11, the next edition of its operating system, will include various features aimed at PC gamers, including Xbox Game Pass, which will be available immediately within Windows' new Xbox app. Microsoft has been testing this functionality with a new Xbox software for Windows 10 for months, but Bond's video of the Windows 11 version seemed to indicate a deeper connection.

For Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, the Xbox app will also feature Xbox Cloud Gaming; cloud streaming is not included in the lower PC- or console-only tiers of the service. According to Bond, people would be able to "play the highest-fidelity games on all PCs" as a result of the integration.

Microsoft revealed last week at E3 that it is nearing completion of the switch to Xbox Series X hardware in Azure data centers that enable Xbox Cloud Gaming and that it is working to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming to Xbox One.

Bond also mentioned two more gaming-related features in Windows 11: the DirectStorage API and auto HDR, both of which were first seen on the Xbox Series X and Series S. Auto HDR was released on PC in the Windows Insider Program this spring.

Bond said that "over 1,000 games — including Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Rocket League, DayZ, and even Doom 64 — will be automatically enhanced on Windows 11 devices that support HDR," while showing side-by-side footage of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim with standard dynamic range color and auto HDR. This functionality will take minimal work from developers, much as it does on Xbox, but players will need a PC connected to an HDR-capable display. And since Windows 10's HDR support has a reputation for being clunky, Bond's focus on auto HDR for games should signify that Microsoft is improving HDR in Windows 11.

Microsoft first started last fall that its DirectStorage API would be coming to PC and Xbox. The technology was originally created for the Xbox Velocity Architecture. The input-output system in the Xbox Series X and Series S delivers data from storage to the CPU and GPU.

Internal storage on the new consoles uses PCIe 4.0 NVMe solid-state technology, which is quicker than traditional spinning hard drives or even SATA SSDs.The Velocity Architecture (and DirectStorage in particular) is designed to accommodate the faster read and write speeds of NVMe storage, allowing games to profit from the additional data bandwidth in two ways: faster loading times and larger, more complex game worlds.

Bond explained, "DirectStorage-optimized Windows 11 PCs are set up with the hardware and drivers needed to allow this wonderful experience." More and more games will be designed with PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage in mind as the new console generation progresses. Intel didn't even offer PCIe 4.0 capability with their new Rocket Lake microarchitecture until early 2021, so it'll be long before game developers can expect PC gamers to have PCIe 4.0 storage. However, Windows 11's support for DirectStorage is critical in laying the framework for future games.

Windows 11 is expected to be released during the holiday season, and it will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 customers who fulfill the system requirements. Check out The Verge's coverage of Microsoft's Windows 11 unveiling for a lot more information:


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Windows 11 has Xbox Game Pass.