Category Archives: microsoft

I’m joining The Inner Circle!

In the next few days I’ll be exclusively posting news articles and opinion pieces on The Inner Circle’s new Xbox and Microsoft centric website.  You can catch all of the latest and greatest reviews, news and me blowing steam at the address below

www.ticgn.com

They will have forums, developers Q&A’s and the best podcast in the industry dedicated to all things Xbox and Gaming related.

Thanks 🙂

 

PC Master Specs. This is my build. (Built Dec 2013)

I set out to build a decent gaming rig a few years back and this is the specifications of that build. I will be looking at upgrading the graphics later next year when a proper DirectX 12 card launches (maybe the R9 300 series).

I will link all the parts to Amazon if you may be interested in some of these items.

Motherboard: Gigabyte AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 ATX DDR3 1600 Motherboards GA-970A-DS3P

CPU: AMD FD8320FRHKBOX FX-8320 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

RAM: Kingston Hyper X Blu 8 GB (2x4GB Modules) 1600MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 XMP Desktop Memory – KHX1600C9D3B1K2/8GX

GPU: Gigabyte R9 270X GDDR5-2GB 2xDVI/HDMI/DP OC Graphics Card (GV-R927XOC-2GD)

Storage: WD Blue 1 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, 7200 RPM, SATA 6 Gb/s, 64 MB Cache – WD10EZEX

WiFi: TP-LINK TL-WN781ND Wireless N150 PCI Express Adapter, 2.4GHz 150Mbps, Include Low-profile Bracket

Case: Corsair Carbide Series Black 500R Mid Tower Computer Case (CC-9011012-WW) 

PSU: Corsair CX Series 750 Watt ATX/EPS Modular 80 PLUS Bronze ATX12V/EPS12V 744 Power Supply CX750M 

Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H55 Quiet Edition Liquid CPU Cooler (CW-9060010-WW) 

Performance wise it’s relatively quick. Boot times are near instantaneous. Games like Skyrim, Metro Last Light and Battlefield 4 runs at 1080p at ultra settings without a hitch. I haven’t noticed frame rate drops.

Overclock ability is high. You can overclock the CPU to 4GHz easily and I’ve overclocked the GPU on several occasions to see how far it can go. I didn’t install a Blu-Ray or DVD drive as those are pointless in todays world. Everything can be done via USB or Internet

I’m interested to see how DirectX 12 will improve upon the performance of this system. I did a Futuremark benchmark, and I will do another when DX12 is fully supported to see if there are any differences.

This build isn’t top of the line, I only had a limited budget when building it, and seeing the prices now against what they were I sob a little inside. But never the less, if you need a decent build that won’t break the bank consider this, games run exceptionally well and you won’t have any hardware issues. The graphics card alone outperforms the PS4 and Xbox One and it’s roughly $179. Total system cost at current prices $755.

 

Shovelling Sh*t. Where are the games?

I recently watched a video from Gamespot’s Danny O’Dwyer talking about how he’s wondering where all the good games are. And I kind of agreed with him on this point. Where are they?

Usually when a new generation of platform drops, the publishers are quick to push out awesome games to get our money before we spend it on some other game. The same goes for PC where Steam has become the proverbial dumping ground for games that we’re not really sure why they’re there. Almost like the Google Play store but with worse games.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. For me the best games I’ve played on Xbox One was by far Shadow of Mordor, Halo Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive. Forza is a staple that I’ll enjoy no matter what. The best game I’ve played on PlayStation was Velocity 2X. All these games would have been awesome if they were on both platforms so I’m not talking about which platform it launched on.

Instead we were set up with games like The Order, Driveclub, remasters everywhere and some of the dullest and unimaginative indie games you can’t imagine even if you tried. All of a sudden it became the norm for studios to slap a fresh coat of paint on old and arguably loved franchises and call it a day. Where are the fresh ideas people?

Then you have the community which in all due respect needs a kick in the butt. They focus on which platform is better and which runs the game at 9 frames a second faster instead of realizing they’re being flooded with crap. And they lap it up. PC gamers aren’t much different. The most popular games on PC is MOBA games and Free to Play. Goat Simulator is more popular on Twitch than most other AAA games which actually had a story.

This Youtuber (BrokenGamezHD) complains about there not being any proper multiplayer games out there. And I agree. But there might be two sides to this, there might be a lot of multiplayer games, but the community and players suck or there just aren’t any good fun multiplayer experiences. For me the best multiplayer experience are when you play with your actual friends. Halo 5 Multiplayer beta was my favourite game so far this generation. And that says a lot.

The industry is basically taking the piss and we the gamers are too pre-occupied by  insulting each other because fanboi.

Now I’m looking forward to games like The Witcher 3, Quantum Break and Halo 5. But with an industry like what we’ve seen the past couple of months, I’m kind of sceptical. Will The Witcher be a broken mess with a bad story? Will Halo rinse and repeat a dead cow? Will Quantum Break be delayed until 2016?

Uncharted 4 being delayed just took the piss out of PlayStation gamers who’ve been waiting anxiously for that one game that will blow their minds. But now I’m not so sure, a game being delayed is not a good sign. Will they rush to meet the deadline for Holiday 2016? Will they cut corners while Monolithic Sony stands over them demanding the game?

We’ll have to wait and see. But right now, this gaming industry sucks. And don’t believe the idiots who say we’ve never had so many games to play because 90% of them are utter dog shit being shoved into our Fancy Feast and we’re too stupid to realize. E3 2015 should be a good measuring stick to see what we can expect the next twelve months. Mass Effect, FallOut and Dead Space are all on my radar. But I have a nagging suspicion it will be filled to the brim with bread simulators and a game about a Octopus or tons of stupid Virtual Reality games that will set you back hundreds and leave you feeling like an idiot who fell for the hype again a la Kinect.

Yeah, that’s next generation for you. Our desperation is showing.

 

Xbox is the King of Cross Platform Gaming. Console wars are for Plebs.

There have been a lot of backlash from Xbox and PC gamers alike since Microsoft have taken the reigns in regards to what the future of gaming will be like on both Xbox One and PC. Microsoft is combining the two platforms under one brand which will be Xbox. Is this a good thing or bad thing?

I’m siding on the good, because this can only be beneficial to everyone. Microsoft is bringing first party titles to the Xbox platform no matter where that is played on. So for instance you buy Fable Legends and play it on your PC/Tablet device, you can get home and continue on your Xbox without skipping a beat. This will be the same for all the games coming to this platform.

But Xbox One owners feel done in for some reason and I cannot understand why. Microsoft just added 1.5 Billion potential Xbox customers for games to your favourite platform without selling one single console. This means that every first party title and third party title will favour the Xbox platform and Windows 10 over any other, because obviously the gamers are there.

This means that games on Xbox will be optimized for DX 12, which in turn will mean better looking and performing games on your platform.

We all know game companies especially AAA developers have a tough time ensuring that their game stays within budget, and that their game will reach a suitable audience that they can make money. Microsoft is in a prime position to grab the industry and push them towards supporting the Xbox platform over others because marketshare. Steam has a hold on the PC platform, but Microsoft could easily ship the Xbox console with a Steam app and work with them to integrate features so that they don’t directly compete.

I for one laud the move from one platform to every platform for the Xbox brand. So when the PlayStation faithful bash the supposed ‘loss’ of exclusives to a console, the Xbox faithful will receive tenfold what they lost when games with crossplay come exclusively to the Xbox brand. Remember kids, Xbox is a brand now not a console. That brand just became bigger than PlayStation and Wii combined.

Indie titles will also benefit from this huge userbase. Microsoft can offer them unrivalled cross platform support, with Phone, tablet and PC/Console buyers ready to spend money on their new project. This dwarfs any rival platform and it will ensure that the Xbox platform receive games first. And same goes for AAA games like Tomb Raider, GTA, and Mass Effect.

This is the biggest push by Microsoft to work with partners in the space to ensure that their customers, no matter where they are receive content which is both valuable and optimized for their platform of choice.

Xbox hardware will not go away as it is still the platform of choice for millions of consumers to play games because of convenience. And Microsoft is not abandoning this market, because lets face it console players buy more games per user in general and is willing to spend more.

So I am fully supportive of this push to multiplatform gaming instead of having a silo where only a subset of users may play a certain game. I can’t wait to be able to play my games where ever I am regardless if I’m on my desk with my PC or on my couch with my Xbox.

And those who say they might just buy a PlayStation and get their Xbox games on PC, Microsoft sill gets your business, because you’re still an Xbox gamer.  While the peasants rummage through the filth, Xbox gamers and PC gamers have become one force. They’ve all become Xbox gamers.

Freeloading? Why don’t games sell as well on PS4?

It’s out, games don’t sell as well on PS4 than on Xbox One. But why? Certainly there are way more consoles out there in the public than there are Xbox Ones. But month after month the games that come out on both systems get snapped up by a multiple more on Xbox. Even Xbox 360 gamers buy more games than PS4 users.

Now there are one theory. The PS4 launched to much fanfare in 2013. It sold for $100 less than the Xbox One and subsequently got snapped up by the masses. Sony also introduced free games for PS+ members and said that they will give their subscribers AAA titles like Driveclub.

Now we can speculate all we want but I believe that the majority of PS4 owners are the type of gamer that would play demos and free games more than going out to buy them mainly because of their situation. Maybe most of the buyers were parents who were bullied into buying one, but don’t want to buy games outside of birthdays and Xmas.

Xbox One gamers on the other hand have upgraded from their Xbox 360’s and subsequently continued their rabid need for games. The notion that all Xbox 360 gamers moved to PS4 is a fallacy that should be nipped in the bud, because if that happened, games would consistently sell more on that platform.

It’s well known even though the PS3 and Xbox One were on equal terms last gen based on sales, games sold more on 360. Destiny, a game Microsoft wasn’t even allowed to advertise mainly because of the exclusive deals for PS4, sold more on Xbox One than on PS4.

I’ve seen this several times, gamers on PS4 constantly hammer on about the free games on PS+. They demand AAA games and have a complete disregard for how much it costs to manage servers and/or the viability of allowing 15 Million users download a AAA game which costs at retail $40.

On Xbox we have several free games and demos. And with EA Access you can get AAA games at a monthly fee of $4. But the games with gold offerings have been mostly mediocre. But that’s fine. We should see AAA games by the end of the year, because of price decreases and sales starting to waver in light of new games.

But so far it’s clear, Xbox gamers buy more games regardless of how many consoles out there. Based on Sony’s numbers, there are about 8 million free loaders out there who might buy one game a year and then bitch about not getting free games on PS+.

Don’t fuck this up! My most anticipated games for 2015

2014 wasn’t that exciting when it comes to games. We saw games that didn’t really push the envelope when it comes to gameplay and story. But we have high hopes for the 2015/2016 timeframe. Here are my list for the top most anticipated games for 2015/16 that will make me seriously pissed off if they’re shit.

Halo 5: Guardians

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Halo is one of my favourite games that I only got into thanks to The Master Chief collection. Plagued by problems I only stuck to the Single player campaigns. However, Halo is an epic saga that will continue with Halo 5. Promised to really push the envelope when it comes to graphics thanks to the Cloud and Direct X 12, this game is going to blow the roof off of this mother*****.

We’ve already got a taste of the Multiplayer, and boy was it good. Even if the graphics was a bit meh, but it was a beta build so lets be realistic here.

Coming to Xbox One exclusively in Holiday 2015.

Age of Empires 4

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It’s been fucking ages since Microsoft released a follow up to Age of Empires 3 and it’s time. People are still Twitching Age of Empires 2 for god sake. Microsoft did hire people for a release of a ‘favourite’ RTS game and although it can mean they’re rebooting Age of Mythology, I’m really holding my thumbs they show us something at E3 2015. If they don’t I’ll be pissed.

DirectX 12 should make this even more interesting. And don’t for the love of god insult us with one of your free to play bullshit like on mobile. That shit sucks.

Expected Holiday 2015 on PC.

Fallout 4

Fallout-4

Now I’ve never played a Fallout game in my life. Yet everytime one comes out it becomes my favourite, mainly because the game is so fucking awesome it’s worth just looking at. People have been practically doing a rain dance speculation on the return of this amazing franchise and things have really gotten hot since Bethesda announced they will have their own little E3 keynote. Now if that doesn’t scream Fallout, you can shoot yourself.

Even if I never play it, I’ll sure as hell watch it for hours on Twitch.

Expected Holiday 2015 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Quantum Break

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Now I thought Alan Wake was a cool game. And sure the graphics and atmosphere was epic. But just think, controlling time while shooting shit? I mean how epic can a game get? Remedy, If you fuck this up and it gets a 6/10 on Metacritic I’ll fucking hate you.

Expected September on Xbox One exclusively.

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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Now Witcher have never really been on my radar. It’s true that when the first one was released it piqued my interest for 3 seconds because the box art was amazing. But I never played it. Now when those epic trailers for Witcher 3 was revealed and gameplay was shown, my open world dinges was tickled. I in all fairness hate open world games like Skyrim and GTA because I’ll waste copious amounts of time wandering down paths and never really get into the story. But I really want to get into the Witcher story, because man does it look amazing.

Expected May on Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Forza Motorsport 6

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This game is like the obvious choice when it comes to racers. Anyone who says anything to the contrary should have their head examined or should take pills for looking like Sarah Jessica Parker. Forza 5 was relatively meh when it came to content mainly because it was a launch title and time probably was on short supply. But with DirectX 12, the cloud and Microsoft and Turn 10 getting their shit together we should see a racing game that will make real life look like Minecraft.

Turn 10, look at me….don’t fuck this up.

Expected Holiday on Xbox One exclusively

Mass Effect 4

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Now I have a love hate relationship with Mass Effect. Sure I own every single game on PC and I bought them on Xbox 360. I played the first instalment and got further on PC because the controls system on 360 was so complicated I wanted to kill myself. Yes I still haven’t finished the first one because seriously, this game drags fucking on. But for all its faults, I still want to finish this game. I really hope they build a remastered version of the first 3 in a nice collection so I can do the Halo binge playing and get my shit together and see what the fuss is about.

The remastered version is expected Holiday 2015 on Xbox One and PS4

More at E3?

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Well obviously they’ll blow our minds at E3. We might see games like the next Assassins Creed, Indies and shit and maybe something really awesome. But so far the only games worth our attention is listed above.

What about Sony exclusives? Well so far there is Uncharted, but so far it looks dull. Hopefully they’ll show the game at E3 2015 they teased at E3 2014 instead of a PS3 game in full HD.

Other than that, I do hope they show something interesting. But right now the games above have my full attention and money.

 

Can’t touch this. Top 10 favourite games of all time!

I’ve been a gamer since the early days (Nintendo NES and the good old monochrome PC’s). And I’ve played a good number of games that stretched from racing to action adventure. Here are some of the titles that stick with me in the back of my mind and are used to compare new games to. This list is not in any particular order, and they all are equally my favorites.

1. Age of Empires Series. Time to take over the world

age-of-empires-3-706666_506

Age of Empires have been a mainstay of my gaming career. Since the first demo I got to play back on Windows 98 (they gave you free demos back then on the Windows disk), I’ve been hooked. There haven’t been any strategy game that matched its brilliance.

2. F.E.A.R

Download Games F_E_A_R For Free gratis

The first game hooked me for life, I binge played this game on my PC for a whole weekend and finished it wanting more. Unfortunately the subsequent sequels haven’t been the same for me, although I bought all of them. The first game still holds the crown as the best FPS game.

3. Call of Cthulhu. Dark Corners of the Earth

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The first and last Survival Horror game I will ever play (mainly because everything since have been watered down and boring). This game literally scared the shit out of me. Dubbed the “First person Pooper” by NAG. The dark foggy game design and eerily creepy characters combined with mental instability and your character losing his mind slowly made this a masterpiece. Never will you know what it feels like to try and survive while your player loses his mind while the keyboard starts to malfunction. The game even came with a warning telling you that it’s not the PC, it’s the game.

4. Need for Speed. Porsche 2000

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Released the same time as Gone in 60 Seconds this was the first and only racing game that I played non stop for a year. I played it so much that the cars I drove actually increased in value. This game made me a fan of Porsche cars and the way they implemented customizations hooked me permanently. It also had the first ‘Forza’ like view of your vehicle and the tracks were beautiful for the time. EA has since lost the plot with the franchise and I do hope they get the zing back.

5. Conquest of The New World

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This is the only turn based strategy game I’ve played and liked. It wasn’t too impressive graphically but it had fun gameplay and kept me busy for quite a while.

6. Half Life 2

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When I first saw Half Life 2 I was amazed at the graphics this game had. Back then I didn’t have a PC that could run the game until 2 years later. I played the game continuously for days until I finished it. The story and game design was absolutely brilliant and in my mind it is one of the best story based games I’ve ever played. Valve outdid themselves here. Steam was just a pain in the backside back then, it barely worked.

7. Ratchet and Clank

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One of the only PlayStation games I’ve ever liked. Ratchet and Clank hooked me on the PS2 and I played the game every chance I got. The story and game design was quirky and fun and the gameplay was difficult but easy to get used to.

8. Halo

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The first time I got to play Halo was when i343 released The Master Chief Collection. I’ve always heard about Halo but never got to play it mainly because I was a PC gamer. When I got the Xbox One, I bought the collection first chance I got. The game was an instant success. The story was deep, the game design and layout was perfect and by the time I played Halo 4 I was a Halo fan. I also enjoyed the switch between the original and remastered modes. I am buying Halo 5 the moment it launches, no matter what anyone says.

9. Sim City

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I’ve never been a fan of the Sims games. But when I got Sim City 2000 I was an instant fan. Nothing beats having a city that you need to manage from going bankrupt. The latest instalment is quite limiting but it still beats The Sims, a game where I have sex with everyone that walks by my house because the rest of the game is so utterly boring.

10. Arcanum. Of Steamworks, and Magick Obscura

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If you’ve never played this game you are missing out. Similar to the Elder Scrolls series but based on the third person view, this game was one of the best designed and written games I’ve ever seen. It came with multiple endings, Lord of the Rings style story, different classes and infighting. It required you to listen to each story and make choices (like Mass Effect) because they affected the ending. I’ve never played a story that was this deep before and up until today, I don’t think I have played a game that required this much attention from the player. Mass Effect came close to that but was still fairly linear.

 

Microsoft is killing off Xbox?

With the launch of Windows 10, Phil Spencer went onstage and revealed that they will be bringing Xbox One features and Fable Legends to PC. The world abruptly burst into flames when they also stated that PC will get cross platform games from Xbox like Forza and others where it makes sense.

Microsoft has had several attempts in the past to try and lure PC gamers to the Xbox world and to chip away at the dominance that Steam holds over PC. This is normal as Microsoft is the biggest platform for PC. But with Games for Windows being such a huge failure, how would they do this?

Simple, get gamers excited for new franchises and games coming to PC by offering them games usually only available on console. Fable was the first carrot Microsoft is dangling in front of PC gamers and soon they’ll push harder by offering games such as Tomb Raider and maybe even Sunset Overdrive to them (after some timed exclusive stuff ends). Hopefully they have more than cross play and a few games up their sleeves. Xbox on PC should become a unified experience where you can buy games as well. But that remains to be seen.

But what about that box everyone and their mother pretends to hate because it’s popular? Is Microsoft shunning their massive Xbox fanbase? Will Xbox dwindle and fall by the wayside as Microsoft start pushing PC gaming to the next level?

Don’t be ridiculous.

The Xbox brand is as central to Microsoft as Windows is. Xbox is a gateway to their services and brings in billions for Microsoft annually. It is by far their most popular product, and Satya reiterated that they will remain committed to the platform. Will the platform change? Of course. Will it become more cloud based, of course. Will we see a dramatic shift away from TV based hardware in 2 years? No.

XBox and PlayStation will continue to evolve (see PS Now and XBox Cloud Compute) that will improve gaming and entertainment. You will always need a box that connects to the internet and the Xbox One 2 or whatever they call it in the future might just be an internet connected device that will link you to Microsoft services. And the same goes for the PlayStation.

PC gaming is going the same way. Gone will be the days where you’ll have to upgrade your graphics card at $500 a year to stay current. You’ll be able to utilize the cloud to supplement your power for games. The future is bright for consoles and PC gaming and Microsoft is just moving towards that future. We might even see PS Now on the Xbox as a service. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Will PC gaming die when Microsoft allows you to stream PC games to Xbox? No.

So before you declare something dead because one exclusive happens to go to PC (which seems to be the popular thing to do these days) think of the future and what that holds.

Will there be exclusive games in the future? Sure, service specific exclusives.

DirectX 12. Something we all should be excited about.

The console war is heating up with fans on both sides getting increasingly frustrated that the other platform refuses to die. We all know that will never happen. Recently Microsoft hosted the Windows 10 consumer event and showed several cool new features that will be coming this fall. Windows 10 will be launching on PC, Tablet, Phone and Xbox to some extent.

One of the most heated topics that is being discussed to death by both sides of the fence is the Direct X 12 update. Pundits have called it something of a misnomer, to outright calling it a gimmick that will do nothing for PC gaming or the Xbox. Other developers have publicly stated (outside of the NDA agreements) that what they’ve seen and experienced it completely revolutionary. Phil Spencer famously misquoted by some said that the Xbox One will see some benefit but the hardware will not change.

Let’s take all of this into perspective. Whether or not you’re a fan of the ‘other’ console brand be it Nintendo or Sony, or you’re a PC hardcore gaming enthusiast you should be happy that the evolution of programming API’s and tools are accelerating. I find it personally bizarre how people will publicly condemn anyone who feels excited about this.

DirectX 12 will improve efficiency for CPU bound games and will improve access to the GPU by allowing more than one core to communicate with the CPU/GPU. Previously only one core managed to communicate at a time and DirectX 11 was quite power hungry based on Intel’s presentation? I myself prefer that power consumption be brought down in all consoles. As per example, one can take a very graphically intensive game on the PS4 and you will hear the console fans spinning profusely to cool the system down and I hope they find a way to improve the cooling system or any API improvements Sony brings to the PS4 will be severely hampered by the lack of proper cooling in the system.

Microsoft on the other hand have taken a beating over the design of the Xbox because they took cooling to the extreme and built a larger cooling system in making the device bigger. I’m not pretending that they could have made a better design other than the minimalist box design they have now, but choosing to ensure the device stays cool at all times is of upmost importance. Taking AC Unity on the Xbox One and leaving it running for hours while thousands of NPC’s are running around the device does not sound any louder than what it does while in the menu for example.

DirectX 12 will improve upon the power consumption and access to the multi-core system for developers will improve. Will it impact games dramatically? No, I don’t think we will see graphics that outshines a PC with about $4000 worth of components in there. Phil famously said there will be no dramatic change, and I agree. Will games look better, of course? Will lighting and framerates improve? Of course they will. But to pretend that there will be no change because Phil said ‘no dramatic change’ is an oxymoron.

PC gaming however will have a smaller benefit than that of the Xbox. Why? Because historically developers have not optimized games to run as good on the lowest common denominator as on the best. Game performance and graphics have always been up to the player. Do you want better graphics at a lower framerate? Or do you want a higher framerate with lower resolution? These are the options open to gamers on PC and DirectX 12 will not change that. Yes the PC will use less power, but the onus lies with the player to decide what type of experience they want out of their PC. With console devices the experience and optimization lies solely with the developer and they need to ensure that the game runs at optimal capacity. Unless you’re Konami.

At the Windows 10 event Phil Spencer showed a FutureMark benchmark tool running both DirectX12 and DirectX11 on screen with complexity increasing. DirectX12 showed massive improvements in framerates while the difficulty kept increasing over time. That is what DirectX does, it allows the system to efficiently improve framerates while doing double the work (50%). Of course it depends on your hardware. A Core i7 will be able to do more than an APU. This is on CPU bound games and it clearly proves that DirectX12 is not a pipe dream. Xbox One users will see improvement on the complexity of games and framerates depending on how well the game was optimized for the Xbox.

GPU bound games is the next chapter for gaming and we will see more on that in the future at GDC this year. Both PS4 and Xbox One will benefit dramatically from the shift away from CPU bound to GPU bound games and both console platforms should be excited for this shift. Nobody will be left behind in this race and we should expect Sony to reveal (or not) their answer to the future of gaming. Hopefully they will ensure that the console does not sound like a plane taking off while doing it.