First Click: Microsoft could turn every PC into an Xbox

June 7th, 2016


This time next week, we'll know exactly what Microsoft is planning for the future of its Xbox One console. With sales continuing to lag behind Sony's PlayStation 4, Microsoft has started to focus on combining PC gaming with the Xbox One. The first signs of this started when the Xbox One was originally launched with a customized version of Windows 8, but the software maker upgraded the console to Windows 10 in November. This is where things start to get interesting.

Microsoft has been dropping hints that Windows powering the Xbox One would be meaningful, but we've been waiting to see the type of close integration that the company has teased time and time again. With an Anniversary Update to the Xbox One due in the summer, Microsoft has finally started to combine its Windows and Xbox app and games stores. We're expecting to see a lot of Xbox apps this summer, but the combination of stores could set PC gaming and Xbox One up for an interesting future.

Microsoft is currently working on a secret project internally, codenamed Helix. Kotaku originally reported on the Project Helix name, and the work is designed to more closely combine Xbox and Windows 10. Some of that work has started, but more of it is due later this year and next year with future upgrades to Windows 10. Microsoft wants to enable features like streaming PC games to the Xbox One, but sources familiar with the company's plans also tell us there are greater ambitions to make Xbox One games playable on a PC without needing a console for streaming.

Part of this could involve bringing the full Xbox One UI and system directly into desktop versions of Windows 10. The latest Xbox One dashboards are built on top of Windows 10, so most of the work involved would be customizing the interface towards keyboard and mouse. Bringing the Xbox One UI over to Windows 10 machines would effectively turn every PC into an Xbox One, especially if they're also capable of running the latest console games.

If Xbox One games are truly playable on PCs, then this approach also boosts Microsoft's Universal App platform and the ability to offer a single store purchase that will work across PCs and consoles.

Microsoft will talk more about its Windows 10 and Xbox One integration next week at E3. Last year, the company surprised many with the backwards compatibility announcement of Xbox 360 games running on Xbox One. Microsoft is expected to announce an Xbox One "slim" console next week, potentially detail a future hardware upgrade codenamed "Scorpio," and launch two new streaming "Xbox TV" devices. If ​Microsoft’s ambition is to combine Xbox One and PC gaming, then any hardware announced ​might be overshadowed by software at this year’s E3.

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