Windows 10 is here, but what does it mean for gamers? Here's everything you need to know!
Let's start with the simple question: is Windows 10 better for gamers?
For the most part, Windows 10 delivers slightly better performance on AAA titles across the board. Benchmarks from MaximumPC and Ars Technica have found that Windows 10 the subsequent DirectX 12 upgrade boosts performance on games like Metro: Last Light, Batman: Arkham City and Tomb Raider by a handful of frames per second. While that's nothing to jump up and down about, Windows 10 means more for gamers than simple frame rate boosts. We'll touch on those soon.
The point here is that you aren't going to experience measurably worse performance from your games if you upgrade to the new OS from Windows 8.1 or even Windows 7.
For the most part, graphics card giants NVIDIA and AMD have updated the drivers for their hardware so that the vast majority should work with Windows 10.
With new drivers, you won't get wonky screens, weird colours or blown out resolutions.
Just because the new version of Windows is ready for everyone to use according to Microsoft's standards, it doesn't mean other developers have updated their software with new compatibility settings. Some games in particular may bug out on the new platform, which sucks! There are a few different ways to fix it.
First of all, it's worth checking whether members of Microsoft's Windows Insider community have taken a look at and given the green light to a number of games on Windows 10. You can find that list here. The list of titles includes some really recent AAA games at the time of writing, meaning that most new games should be installing with settings friendly to Windows. However, if your game keeps bugging out, you'll need to take further steps to correct it.
Older games are going to be your biggest problem when it comes to compatibility, and in that case your best bet is to keep checking for updates to the program in question until a fix rolls out—try checking the app forums or contacting the developer directly. Alternatively, you can try Compatibility Mode.
Compatibility Mode is still present and correct in Windows 10, so you can try that too: Right-click on an executable, choose Properties and open the Compatibility tab. From there, you’re able to get the program in question running as if it were using a different version of Windows. It’s not guaranteed to work but it might help.
Xbox And Windows 10
Part of Microsoft's push to unify Windows laptops and tablets with phones and Xbox One consoles, Redmond has worked hard to get game streaming working in the new OS.
This means that if someone else in your house is watching the telly, you can still play Halo 5. What might also be obvious, but is also worth pointing out is that you don't need a particularly high spec PC to stream: as long as you can run Windows 10, you're good to go, as it is your Xbox One that handles all of the heavy lifting.
To make it work, you'll need your Xbox and your computer to be on the same network. So it will only really work when you're home (so no streaming to a mobile device when you're away yet). You'll also need an Xbox controller (either 360 or One) to be connected to your device. Brilliantly, this is nice and easy if you have an Xbox One controller as it can connect over Micro-USB – a phone charger, essentially.
Microsoft says that later in the year it will be releasing a USB wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers. If you have a wireless dongle for your 360 controller, that should work too.
From what we've seen, streaming works rather well with no noticeable lag when over a wired connection. Helpfully there's a button to adjust the streaming quality on the app; if your network is more congested you can take the picture quality down a notch.
Once connected, game streaming is essentially an identical experience to using your console on the TV, with all of the features, including GameDVR continuing to work.
Apparently even non-game apps will work, though video apps will likely block streaming on copyright grounds. This means that you can't watch the Netflix Xbox app via streaming, but if you wanted to do that you'd just watch Netflix on Windows 10 normally anyway.
Finally, if you wait a few years Microsoft has promised that game streaming will enable Xbox One games to make use of its futuristic HoloLens headset. But we're going to take this with a pinch of salt until the technology is closer to market.
Windows 10 also comes with an Xbox app built in, which will let you view your friends and achievements, send messages and so on, all from the comfort of your PC.
The app even brings the Xbox One's GameDVR functionality to your PC, enabling you to record games and edit them, just like on Xbox.
Furthermore, Microsoft is also letting you play multi-player games across different platforms with Windows 10. For example, in Fable Legends PC players play the villains, competing against the hero characters who are playing on Xbox One. Similar functionality was tried before a few years ago, with Shadowrun on PC and Xbox 360 being compatible with each other, to limited success.
The Bottom Line
So what does it all mean?
Microsoft has worked hard to make sure that its flagship operating system is still a great place for gamers. The most important thing to understand here is that Windows 10 isn't like Windows Vista or ME: it's not an OS release you're going to have to skip because of all the bugs.
Hardware manufacturers have drivers ready, teams of Windows enthusiasts have been checking software compatibility, Redmond has worked hard to make Xbox One on your Windows PC make sense. DirectX 12 also means moderate increases in frame rates rather than decreases. All in all, Windows 10 is a Good Thing for gamers.
David Nield and James O Malley also contributed to this piece.