If you’ve ever played PC games, you know the feeling.
Maybe you leave Google Chrome or Skype open in the background while you play, and you get a ton of notifications, or a video loads in an open tab. The sudden demands on your system make your game freeze up, stutter, and otherwise perform poorly.
“Gamers may not be aware of stuff that’s running in the background,” says Microsoft Xbox Group Product Manager Peter Orullian.
Microsoft believes it has a fix for this problem. It’s a new setting called “Game Mode,” and it’s coming with the free Windows 10 Creators Update, arriving later in Spring 2017.
This new mode takes certain technology gleaned from Microsoft’s experience with the Xbox One game console, and applies it back to Windows 10, Orullian says. The Xbox One lets players run apps like Twitch or Pandora in the background, and Microsoft did a lot of work making sure that this stuff didn’t interfere with the gaming experience.
Now the idea is to make Windows 10 an even better place to play games. But if you really love your PC the way it is, fear not: Game Mode works entirely behind the scenes.
“We’re not trying to make the PC into an Xbox,” says Orullian.
What is Game Mode?
The idea, Orullian says, is that when Game Mode is enabled, it will optimise your computer’s processor and graphics card to prioritise a game you have open. So whatever software is in the background will still be running, but your computer will divert fewer resources to them.
The end result is a much smoother gaming experience. Depending on your hardware setup, Game Mode may actually boost the overall performance of the game, but Orullian warns that that’s not what Microsoft is aiming for. The goal is consistency, so no matter what’s running in the background, it will be a smooth experience.
Here’s a video showing how it all works:
In the future, and as Microsoft gathers more data, its “ambition is to handle both” performance upgrades and the consistency. But because so many different computers have so many different arrays of hardware and software, it’s hard for Microsoft to guarantee a big boost to the majority of Windows 10 users.
Game Mode is currently something of a mixed bag: It’s available to members of Microsoft’s Windows Insider beta testing program, and early reports from our friends at Ars Technica and PC Gamer show that its benefits are real but still relatively subtle. Orullian says that Microsoft is gathering data from testers and will improve it over time, and sees Game Mode as a “long game” that they’re investing in.
At the start, you’ll have to opt-in on a game-by-game basis to use it, though Microsoft-made games like “Minecraft” and “Halo Wars 2” that get purchased from the Windows Store will have it on by default. And if you don’t like it at all, you can turn it off entirely from the Windows 10 settings.