Xbox One and Windows 10: What Gamers Need to Know

By James O Malley on at

Windows 10 is released next week as a free update for everyone running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, so you've really got no excuse to not upgrade. But it isn't just our computers that will enhanced by the upgrade: gamers should rejoice too, as it brings tighter integration between Xbox and Windows, which means some exciting new features.

More: Windows 10, Day One

Game Streaming

The big news is that from launch next week you'll be able to stream Xbox One games to your Windows 10 computer or tablet (no phones yet, sadly) to play in other rooms. 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 Universal Apps on Xbox One

The Xbox One is also getting a software update soon that will enable it to run a version of Windows 10. Specifically, the update will enable it to run what Microsoft call "Universal Apps". These are apps that have been coded once by developers yet will run on all Windows 10 devices, including PC, tablet, phone... and Xbox One.

It isn't immediately clear exactly what apps will be launching on Xbox One, but Microsoft tells us that it is conceivable that the Xbox One could run the sorts of boring Office apps usually confined to PCs using the system. But don't expect to be firing up the Xbox for some exciting spreadsheet adventures just yet: it will be up to developers which platforms their universal apps appear on, so the makers of boring office apps will likely just stick to PC.

Xbox App on Windows 10

The integration is working the other way too. Windows 10 will come 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.

Cross-Device Multiplayer

One of the most intriguing features is that some games will let you play multiplayer with players on a different device. 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.

It will be interesting to see how this works in practice, or how widely adopted it is. We wouldn't fancy being a poor console FPS player when up against a PC gamer with a keyboard and mouse.

Minecraft

This all sounds great, but upgrading an operating system is a lot of hassle, right? So how can Microsoft persuade everyone to upgrade? With Minecraft, of course!

Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta will be available for free to anyone who has previously installed the original Java version of the game and builds on the features of the "Pocket Edition". In the new version you'll be able to play multiplayer (online or local) with up to 7 others Pocket Edition players, and the game will support multiple control schemes: everything from touch, to controller, to mouse & keyboard. It will also bake in GameDVR functionality, which is something that will be important to the huge community of Minecraft-playing YouTubers.