Microsoft is nearing its first anniversary of the consumer release of Windows 10, and thus far it’s also managed to align a lot of other platforms running Windows 10 in some fashion. Soon, the Xbox One will get the Anniversary Edition treatment, and it’ll close the gap to Windows 10, and bring more feature parity between the platforms. To date, Microsoft is the only console manufacturer that has ported their platform and UI over to the PC (streaming the console UI doesn’t count), and Windows 10 is the point where Microsoft finally flexes their gaming muscle. Hit the jump for more.
If you’re a member of the Xbox One Preview program, you’re going to start seeing these changes rolled out gradually. Some of the changes actually apply separately to the Windows 10 and Xbox One platforms, so I’ll separate them where applicable below. Keep in mind that Microsoft’s incentive for bringing these two platforms together and trying to achieve parity across them is the fact that games on Xbox One, especially from Microsoft’s first-party studios, will worm their way into the Windows 10 Store via the Universal Windows Application (UWA) platform eventually.
New to Xbox One:
- Cortana now on your console – Cortana will now replace the Xbox One voice assistant and brings along all her strengths and traits from Windows 10. Some specific tricks and features will be new for Cortana on Xbox One devices, and these changes will bleed over to the Windows 10 platform as well. Along with a more conversational tone to her commands and interactions, you can additionally ask Cortana things like “Who just shot me?!”, and she’ll fetch and display the user profile of the teenager who just lorded over you in Call of Duty multiplayer. Using Cortana does not require the use of the Kinect camera, which is a plus.
- Unified Store – The Microsoft Store and Xbox Store are now identical in most respects, and behave in the same way with the same applications available to them where possible. The store is also it’s own app, which allows Microsoft to update it at a different pace compared to the regular Xbox One updates, keeping it more in line with the Windows 10 update cycle which is faster and more aggressive.
- Updated list view – Games in your collection now appear as a collection of scrolling static tiles instead of a panoramic list that scrolls sideways. This feature also makes it to the Xbox application on the PC platform.
- Win32 game integration – Because the default behaviour on Windows 10 is to have games running underneath the Xbox app overlay (hence why the Xbox Gamebar pops up when you’re launching something), it’ll be possible to see what games your friends are playing even if they’re on PC instead of Xbox One, and vice versa. You need to keep the overlay enabled to get this functionality on Windows 10, and you can do things like chat to your friends and share screenshots and videoclips from within the Xbox app.
- Easier access to the My Games and Apps tile – My Games and Apps now appears as its own tile on the Xbox One UI, and it’s still accessible with two button presses. It seems like a small change, and it is, but perhaps it was a highly requested feature.
- Facebook friend finder – Log in to Facebook from the app and you can now see what your friends via Facebook are playing on their consoles, as well as add them as a friend on your Xbox profile. If there’s ever a good time to unfriend your boss so that they can’t see what you’re doing, especially if you’re playing games at work, now would be it.
- Improved sharing features – Sharing screenshots and video clips now takes less clicks and navigating through new windows to see your stuff published. I’m always in support of doing something complicated in a simpler fashion with less clicks needed.
- Activity feed preferences – Now you can select only what you want to appear on your activity feed, instead of having it show everything you can possibly do on the console to your friends (Sony’s had this for a while on the PS4, but it’s not quite there yet).
New to Windows 10:
- Win32 game integration – In a similar vein to the Xbox One functionality, you can now see what your other friends on Windows 10 are playing if they haven’t disabled the Gamebar overlay or uninstall the Xbox app. This basically becomes a stand-in replacement for Steam, Uplay, Origin, but only if you want to use your PC this way.
- Unified Store – As mentioned before, the stores for both platforms are now more or less unified, but if I’m not mistaken there’s new functionality now to open the Store app on your PC, and browse and buy games, DLC, and bundles and remotely install them to your Xbox One. It’ll be interesting to see if the feature works in reverse for the PC as well.
- Edit GameDVR clips with your preferred editor – Really self-explanatory. Want to edit your video in Windows Movie Maker? I guess that’s OK. Sony Vegas Pro? That’s much better.
- People app integration – Now you can use your contacts listed in the People app to fill up your Xbox Live friends list. That is, if course, if you haven’t uninstalled it already (and I did, because it’s fairly close to useless bloat at this stage).
- Higher quality DVR recording – GameDVR now also records gameplay at 60fps instead of the previous 30fps limit. Selecting this change in the options menu now gives you both 60fps and 30fps video. Why? I don’t quite know.
- GameDVR now supports exclusive fullscreen Win32 games – Playing Half-Life 2 and want to record your gameplay? You can do that now with GameDVR, and it’ll actually work properly this time.
- Share to Twitter – You can now share game clips and screenshots to Twitter. This is nice, I guess, but I’d be more enthused if Microsoft went the extra step and allowed GameDVR to quickly render a video into a GIF for sharing online.
Xbox Update Preview trailer
These changes are really good stuff for Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers, at least if you’re invested in both platforms at the moment, but there’s something more important that these changes hint at that we’ll probably see at Microsoft’s E3 press conference. I’ll have my thoughts about that up later today. If I’m right, it’ll shift the PC gaming landscape significantly.