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Microsoft's emerging strategy for games takes a giant step forward



Over the last few years, we've seen Microsoft's strategy for games aggressive. Since launching a new Xbox One X console, from the traditional release cycle to switching to a streaming service called xCloud, Microsoft games have once again become a priority.

Earlier this year, Microsoft made a peculiar message about the Windows Insider blog related to the games. With the build of 18334, Microsoft announced that they are introducing new technologies in Windows 10 and offering free state of decay, but that is all the information they provide.

I wanted to find out more and started looking for more technical help to retrieve the necessary information. Thanks to the help from NazmusLabs and Rafael I was able to better understand what's going on and thanks to a few people familiar with the company's plans, we can collect the puzzle.

] When you download the State of Decay, weirdness starts right away. Instead of downloading from the Microsoft Store server, serverdl.microsoft.com, where all content, including PlayAnywhere headlines, comes from, the game is downloaded from assets1.xboxlive.com.

What Microsoft seems to do, instead of carrying every Xbox function back to the PC one at a time, they are simply dumping the entire Xbox installation / service plumbing and making it the main installation for Windows.

When you extract the installer from the store after downloading, you will find it using the .xvc file format. Though this does not sound familiar, Microsoft introduced this format around 2013 specifically for Xbox One games. Additionally, you can now install this file format using PowerShell in 19H1; I never thought I would write the words "PowerShell can now install Xbox One Games", but here we are.

When installing State of Decay, you get a hint to install a DX installation that makes classic non-scheduling and Install DirectX dependencies that are not storage-based to the system directory. You can see what it looks like on the screen at the top of the post.

For several months I heard that Microsoft is working on the convergence of Xbox and Microsoft's experience. This seems to be part of GameCore's strategy, which is designed to greatly facilitate the introduction of Xbox games on the PC. Of course, the challenges today for building PC and Xbox games using the same assets are considerably easier than the latest generation, but Microsoft wants to make it a streamlined process for maximum value for developers to support both platforms.

After all, as consoles evolve, they are more like PCs than individual single hardware elements. In this way, it makes it easier for developers to build a game for PCs and Xboxes, which is a huge win for Microsoft on both the console and the computer game front.

There is also a new Gaming Service application, a Microsoft.GamingServices application that installs two drivers; xvdd.sys = XVD Drive Driver (Microsoft File System Driver) gameflt.sys = Microsoft Gaming Install Driver. As noted WalkingCat xsapi.dll = Durango Storage API, XCrdApi.dll = Durango XCRDAPI, both references can be found in the files: Durango is the code name for Xbox One.

On the surface, Microsoft seems to be crashing out any differences between PC and Xbox games to make the same experience on both devices. The company is in the process of creating delivery mechanisms based on the Xbox infrastructure as if it made it possible to launch Xbox games on the computer as well as replacing the existing gaming infrastructure with the store games of the one that Xbox has built.

And this is not a half-baked port to the Windows ecosystem. Similar to Xbox, this updated mechanism also supports optimization of delivery. While it seems definitely that developers will be able to use one binary targeting package and Xbox and PC, I believe that the bigger ambition is to make the same game experience on both PC and Xbox.

If Microsoft can do this with top-end performance on both platforms, it means that the address market for Xbox and PC gamers will be the same, making it a much more lucrative target than other platforms.

Tagged with Gaming, Microsoft, Xbox

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