Microsoft’s Windows Developer Day event is going at full swing; after teasing us with a glimpse of Project NEON, Microsoft has now made some real announcements.
At BUILD 2016 last year, Microsoft started allowing developers to build a UWP app, and bring it over to the Xbox One; the Xbox One gaming console could, therefore, run apps built for Windows 10 – as long as they were UWP.
This opened up for a lot of possibilities, and while that’s great – Xbox is a gaming platform first and foremost; games were not part of this announcement, today things change.
One thing to make clear: this is merely an announcement, the feature itself is expected to come with the Windows 10 (and Xbox One) Redstone 3 update sometime in late 2017.
The announcement here is a simple one; games built for PC using UWP will be able to ship directly from the Windows Store to an Xbox One.
The developers wouldn’t have to do much work to make this possible, except adding the obvious controller support.
However, not all developers will be able to do this; those who will be able to do this, will also still need to be part of the ID@Xbox program.
The ID@Xbox program started in 2013; the goal is to bring indie developers to the Xbox One.
Developers who register for ID@Xbox get access to development kits and technical documentation at no cost. They also do not have to pay any fees to update their games but still have access to all the Xbox One and Xbox Live components and services.
In addition to all that, developers also gain access to the Unity engine as well as an optional subscription for Unreal Engine 4.
The (Indie) Developers
Microsoft’s strategy here is quite clear; the PC already has a thriving indie game development community, most of which relies on Valve and its Steam service.
Thanks to this development, it would be possible to merge the Xbox and PC indie development communities into one – as long as everyone uses UWP. The indie developers gain greater exposure from the console market, while still maintaining their position on the PC.
Everyone would benefit from this, except Valve and its Steam service. The only trouble is getting the indie developers on board; the PC gaming community’s reluctance to the Xbox brand and UWP, in general, might be a hurdle, however.
There’s already a few examples of indie developers using Microsoft’s services; Astroneer, an indie game still in development, is available for the Xbox One, and PC. There are, however, two PC versions – one on Steam, the other on Windows Store.
Astroneer players on the Xbox One and the Windows Store UWP version can play together – across platforms, while players on the PC Steam version cannot.
Rise of the Tomb Raider and Quantum Break are also two AAA titles with two separate versions for the PC – one on Steam, the other on Windows Store as a UWP game.
Xbox Play Anywhere
With all this talk of bringing UWP games from the PC to the Xbox One, one question comes to the mind: what about the Xbox Play Anywhere program?
A selection of games from the Xbox One are already playable on the PC; Gears of War 4, Forza Motorsport 6, etc. are the most popular ones.
However, the Xbox Play Anywhere program has a flaw: it’s not unified; an update for Gears of War 4 would need to be recompiled and ported to the PC UWP version, for example.
The game might appear unified for the gamer, but that’s not how it is for the developer. The new announcement makes it unified from the source code to the deployment.
Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio also plays a role somewhere. If PC games are coming to the Xbox One via UWP; it only makes sense to have a more powerful console to run these games.
The Windows 10 Redstone 3 update and Xbox’s Project Scorpio are both expected to release at around the same time; if that’s a mere coincidence, it’s a lucky one.
Hardware is as much a part of this unification as software; while UWP games from the PC will be able to run on Xbox One – they need to run well. Project Scorpio might just be capable enough to do that.
There aren’t many more details revealed about this announcement just yet; hopefully, we will get to know more at E3 – after all, it’s open to the public now.