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Why Windows 10 needs a specialized gaming edition

If there’s a future for the consumer version of Windows, it probably involves a lot of gaming. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested as much to industry analysts in January, calling out PC gaming is a key pillar of the company’s consumer strategy.

But while Microsoft has already tried to boost PC gaming in Windows 10 with features like Game Mode, a free game recording tool, and DirectX 12, the company could go even further as it starts offering more specialized versions of Windows. We already know Microsoft will offer a stripped-down “S Mode” for Windows next year, and the company is also reportedly considering an “Advanced” version of Windows 10 Home with new features for higher-end hardware. Instead of being a one-size-fits-all operating system, Windows is becoming one that adapts to different uses.

So here’s an idea: Instead of treating gaming as a mere feature of Windows, why not make it the primary focus in a gaming edition of Windows 10? Similar to how the “Pro” version of Windows offers extra security and device management features for business users, a Windows 10 Gaming Edition could offer features that only make sense for PC gamers. This version could cost a bit more than a standard version of Windows 10, but would also eliminate elements that gamers might not want.

Here’s how it all could work.

Usability tweaks

In this theoretical version of Windows, games would be faster to launch and easier to mange. Recent games and Xbox Live activity could appear directly on the Windows 10 lock screen for quick access. Microsoft could also greatly expand the Game Bar overlay that appears when you press Win-G or the center button on an Xbox controller. While the current Game Bar shows just a few screen capture and broadcast options, an expanded version would resembled the Xbox One Guide with recent games, friend activity, achievements, and messages.

win10gamelock Jared Newman / IDG

Who needs shortcuts to calendar appointments and email alerts when you could start playing games instead?

To go a step further, this version of Windows could offer a full-screen game launcher similar to the Xbox One home screen and Steam’s Big Picture Mode. This would allow users to launch games from any source—not just the Microsoft Store (formerly known as the Windows Store)—along with media apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. The entire interface would be optimized for both controller and mouse-and-keyboard input, allowing you to build a living room PC that’s more powerful and open than any Xbox console.

Better performance

Microsoft’s Game Mode already squeezes out modest performance gains by minimizing background processes and granting more CPU threads and GPU cycles to gaming. A Windows 10 gaming edition could adopt the “Ultimate Performance” mode coming to Windows 10 for Workstations in the future, and make further improvements by optimizing the PC’s software and hardware in other ways.

windows 10 ultimate performance Microsoft

The Ultimate Performance power plan.

For starters, Microsoft could remove all of its own bloatware that takes up space and distracts from gaming. That means no more “Get Office” nags, pre-installed productivity apps like OneNote, bloatware like Candy Crush, or “Suggested Apps” like Flipboard.

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