Windows 10 Game Mode and Drivers: what we know so far

Microsoft will introduce a truckload of new features in the Creators Update for Windows 10, including the new Game Mode feature and one where drivers may get installed automatically when certain Store games are downloaded and installed on a device running Windows 10.

While I’m not playing that many games anymore, I’m still a gamer at heart and interested in new gaming related features.

This article describes what we know so far, asks questions, and points out potential issues that these two new features may introduce.

Lets start with Game Mode.

Game Mode

game mode

Game Mode was first discovered in the end of December 2016. The reveal offered no information on the feature apart from its name and file name (gamemode.dll).

Microsoft revealed in January 2017 then that it started to add game mode controls to the most recent Windows 10 Insider Build, and that it would add the functionality later on in the development cycle.

Game Mode will be a part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update. The update will be released in April 2017 if the schedule holds.

If you run the latest Windows 10 Insider Build on the Fast Ring, you can bring up the Game Mode control interface by pressing Windows-G to activate Game DVR mode.

The option reads: Game Mode makes gaming your PC’s top priority to improve your game’s quality. The control is not enabled yet though, and does nothing at this point in time.

Microsoft has this to say about game mode:

Our goal is to make Windows 10 the best Windows ever for gaming. With the Creators Update, we’re introducing a new feature called Game Mode. Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter. Our vision is for Game Mode to optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming. This is a big update for Windows; we’re looking forward to Insiders getting their hands on this new feature for further testing, and we’ll have much more to share on what it is and how it works soon, so stayed tuned.

What we know is that Game Mode is added to the same interface that powers Game DVR mode. Some think that it will be tied to Game DVR on Windows 10, but I don’t think this is entirely clear yet.

If that is the case, it would mean that anyone who disabled Game DVR on their Windows 10 machine cannot make use of the mode.

It could be that Game Mode is added to the interface, but also elsewhere so that it can be enabled for games.

What is certain is that it will be available for all games, and not just those from Windows Store.

Another uncertainty in regards to Game Mode concerns what it does. It will improve performance when activated, but what does that mean? Will it work similarly to other game boosting programs? They are more or less snake oil unless you run a very old system that is low on RAM and free cpu cycles all the time.

Microsoft has more options than third-party software when it comes to improving the performance of processes. I’m skeptical that it will boost performance by much though.

Graphics Card driver installations

Microsoft plans to add a new feature to Windows Store that enables companies that publish games to require certain graphics driver versions.

The idea behind the feature is to make sure that games run well on customer systems by making sure recent drivers are installed. This takes care of poor experiences caused by older drivers, and makes the process of updating graphics drivers more pleasant for users.

This sounds like a good feature, and it is likely that many users will appreciate Microsoft taking the initiative here to make the whole process easier for them.

The question that stands in the room is whether users will have any say in the matter. If it is possible to disable the feature, or make it prompt you, then I don’t have any issues with it.

If the installations are automated, and without user interaction however, it opens a can of worms. Customers may have reasons for not wanting certain drivers on their devices. The recent Nvidia driver update issue is all that is needed to understand why the automatic installation of drivers may not be a good thing.

Maybe a certain driver is required because another game does not play well with newer ones. Or, it is causing other issues on the system, or introduces features that users don’t require.


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