Changes to Cortana aren’t the only changes on the way for Xbox One owners. Microsoft is just about to launch the Creators Update – a significant upgrade for Windows 10 devices, including Xbox One. That’s probably worth a reminder: inside every Xbox One there beats a Windows 10 heart – it’s the reason why we have such a diverse range of apps and why we believe the Xbox One ecosystem has such a bright future.
And things will only get brighter with the Creators Update or, more accurately, a series of updates that will occur throughout 2017, the first of which lands next week. Focusing on Streaming, Performance, People and Competition, these updates will make it easier to stream, improve Windows 10 gaming performance, and make it easier to connect and compete with others.
“2017 is going to be a monumental year for gaming at Microsoft. Whether you play on Xbox One, a Windows 10 PC, your mobile phone, or anywhere you sign-in with Xbox Live, we’re going to make your gaming experiences easier, more social, and better with innovative hardware and software features throughout the year.”
~ Mike Ybarra, Head of Platform Engineering for Xbox
Last year, Microsoft acquired nascent streaming outfit Beam. In the world of streaming Twitch reigns supreme, but Beam employs some engineering trickery and HTML5 video to deliver an almost instant stream (Twitch streams are delayed by several seconds or more) which opens up a whole host of different ways for audiences and streamers to interact.
“Streaming is awesome, but as your channel grows it becomes increasingly difficult to engage with thousands of chatters and smaller streams aren’t as fun as they could be for viewers. We’ve crafted a platform to give viewers a window into the streamer’s gameplay. By coupling visual controls with our realtime streaming protocol, we’re changing the way streamers interact with their audience.”
With Beam fully integrated to Xbox One and Windows 10, it will be easier than ever to stream your gaming experiences to audiences all over the world. To stream from Xbox One, you’ll just need a single button press from within the guide, while on Windows 10 all it will take is a single click on the Game Bar (Win + G).
It’s clear why Xbox has such love for Beam – the potential to build and interact with audiences fits so well with Xbox Live as a community tool. Xbox Live Partner Group Program Manager Chad Gibson praised the service for evolving “game streaming from a passive, watch-and-chat experience into one with real-time participation by the viewer; directly into a streamer’s game play and live broadcast.”
Of course, there’s a risk here in going up against the giant that is Twitch. Established in 2011, Twitch (now Amazon-owned) has over 1.5 million broadcasters (including Xbox One UK!) and boasts over 100 million visitors per month. Beam, by way of contrast, has only just turned one year old, and has far fewer streamers and visitors.
It will be a tough sell to get streamers with established Twitch audiences to switch. But with push-button streaming from both PC and Xbox One, undoubtedly both experienced and new streamers will be tempted to try out a service that’s better looking, more fully-featured and more technically competent than its more famous rival.
Visit Beam at https://beam.pro/ to learn more about the exciting technologies involved. While you’re there, you’ll want to sign up for an account if you haven’t already!
While consoles are static places, PC gamers are more than familiar with endlessly fiddling with endless settings to improve the performance of their games. Xbox gaming may experience a performance step-change when Project Scorpio makes an appearance this holiday season (squee!) but Windows 10 has aspirations of its own in the PC gaming world; the Creators Update will introduce Game Mode to Windows 10 – optimising your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming.
Game Mode hasn’t even reached Windows Insider builds yet, but it will launch there shortly and then be gradually updated throughout the year. We’ll know more when it makes its first appearance in the wild, but our best guess (at the moment) is that Game Mode will do all the fiddling for us – both in terms of a game’s settings as well as (at the flick of a switch) streamlining the OS and the hardware to deliver every last ounce of power out of your rig.
We’re hoping Game Mode is just a big green button. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one big button to press to make your PC games work, rather than a thousand tiny sliders, switches, codes and prayers?
There are changes on the way, though, that will improve Xbox One performance without having to buy any new toys. The Xbox Guide (the bar that slides out from the left of the screen when you double-tap the guide button on your controller, or haplessly yell “Hey Cortana, show the guide” and then curse for five minutes as it shows you Bing images of people shutting gates) is getting an updated that will allow you to complete common tasks faster.
The forthcoming update will make the Guide appear with just a single press of the Guide button, rather than the awkward double-tap, and will overlay whatever is showing on your screen at the time. Through the new Guide, you’ll be able to record game clips, track achievements, view your Gamerscore leader board, be mean to Cortana, control background music and more, all more easily than you can at present.
Xbox owners know – probably more than anyone else – just what a social activity gaming is, and Xbox’s success (often despite the best efforts of head honchos at Microsoft to screw things up) owes a great deal to Xbox Live and the Xbox Live community. Most of us will have friends who we first met on Xbox Live – in fact we may ONLY know them through Xbox Live. The Creators Update promises improvements to the way we stay in touch with Xbox Live friends by making it easier to connect with them on other social networks.
This might mean better Facebook and Twitter integration. It should hopefully also mean better integration with the Windows 10 People App – bringing the contact details of all those e=we care about into one single place, seamlessly.
Upcoming updates will also make changes to the Activity Feed. Clubs will get more useful with more powerful tools for moderators to take care of their growing communities (don’t forget to join our club – XBOUK!)
We’re big fans for Clubs and Looking for Group; both are a great fit for Xbox Live and really do make it easier to find new people to play games with. We’re excited to see where Xbox takes them next – new tools for moderation can only be of benefit especially for bigger clubs.
Arena on Xbox Live was revealed last year but, unlike Xbox Play Anywhere, Clubs and Looking for Group, Arena hasn’t made it into the wild just yet. All that will change in 2017, though, when – starting with World of Tanks and Killer Instinct – we’ll all be able to create our own Arena Tournaments. More supported titles are promised over time – and if Arena is going to make a splash we hope this will be a quickly-growing list. Games we want to see early doors include Brawlout and Mantis Burn Racing, whilst last June the list of early adopters included Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Smite, FIFA and H1Z1: King of the Kill.
We understand that Arena will operate across Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, and will offer gamers an easy route way into tournaments of their choice, including discovering tournaments, easy registration, notifications, launching directly into your match, and automatic reporting of results.
So, that’s just a taste of what Xbox owners can look forward to in 2017. We know the first of these features will start to drop as early as next week – possibly for Xbox Insider (formerly Preview Program) members first.
Stay tuned, and well keep you updated!