Microsoft Windows has been the leading computer operating system for several years now. This OS powers billions of computers all over the world, even being the core of some companies. Despite Windows’ long-running heritage and widespread usage, some of its fans agree that it actually sucks a lot of the time. When it comes to gaming especially, the OS’s faults are even more pronounced because PC gamers tend to be power users. But, what if Microsoft got serious and made a version of the OS specifically built for gaming?
Windows’ lineage as an OS is tied into different sub-versions. Traditionally, there’s a version for home use, another for businesses/professionals, and another for server operations. That’s where I got the idea of having a ‘Gaming Edition.’ The way I’m thinking of it, this theoretical version would be a cross between the home edition with some power features of the professional version sprinkled in. More importantly, it would be optimized to make the user’s gameplay experience as smooth as possible. I imagine features like a nice UI that makes navigation simple not just for a keyboard and mouse, but also with a controller too. This UI can also sport some cool visual elements but should use techniques that help it to cut down on the usage of system resources. Another feature could be regular automatic driver updates that install in the background, preferably overnight or other times when the system isn’t in use. Basically, this would be a version of Windows that puts gamers first by giving them an environment where the OS doesn’t get in the way of the gaming experience, which is how things really are now and pretty much always have been.
Gaming on Windows has clearly been a thing for eons now. But, it’s been a bit of a challenge with each of iteration to make things just right for this task. Even when using powerful hardware, there are just oddities within the OS that can put a damper on the whole experience. Whether it’s background processes taking up system resources, drivers not working, or the OS itself having program-breaking bugs that can cause the entire system to crash. Elements of Windows not working are common enough that when something an issue arises, it’s almost second-nature to think “Oh, great. Windows is just being Windows again.”
Even the “legendary” Windows XP, which was still the third most popular OS in the world in 2017, had its fair share of bugs. With that track record, in a way, it’s almost as if Microsoft is getting away with murder due to how problematic Windows as a whole is known to be. Again, billions of computers are powered by some iteration of the OS despite these issues. But, in all fairness, the blame can’t be pinned squarely on Microsoft.
Another reason why people tend to run into problems is that Windows is a fragmented platform. The billions of PCs running the OS all come from different manufacturers, which all contain components of varying age and capability. Because of that piecemeal nature, it’s nearly impossible for Microsoft to tailor a version of Windows that runs smoothly on every system. But, that doesn’t mean the core OS can’t be improved.
It’s pretty much facepalm worthy that you can pull up countless different guides on “how to tweak Windows for optimal performance.” PC gamers know about fine-tuning each of their titles to run well, but having to do the same with the OS seems a little ridiculous. And yet, it’s something that needs to be done. Sometimes, it’s even recommended to start all over again by formatting your hard drive and reinstalling Windows to get it to run at peak performance again. Now that is what baffles me most.
Thus, another feature I think would be amazing in Windows Gaming Edition is a utility that does a full system scan and tidies up any loose ends. There are pieces of software that can do this already, but having one integrated into the OS itself would be great, especially since it would be made by the same team responsible for designing the OS in the first place.
Really, when I imagine something like Windows: Gaming Edition, I can’t help but think of how consoles work. Specifically, Microsoft’s very own Xbox family. Game consoles live up to their name because they’re designed with gaming in mind. Their operating systems are streamlined, designed so that nothing gets in the way of a user’s gameplay experience. Now, it’s true that this happens because consoles are dedicated machines. Everything included in them can be tailor-made, unlike PCs and their fragmentation issue. But, what if Microsoft teamed up with existing gaming PC manufacturers to create machines that are genuinely game-ready? Machines built with the theoretical Windows: Gaming Edition? Effectively, a console-like experience with the freedom of a PC. Now that would be truly amazing.
In a way, I think the company that already has an almost perfect blueprint for an idea like this isn’t Microsoft at all, but rather one of its competitors—Apple. Apple can pretty much already do everything I’ve mentioned. It makes proprietary hardware and operating systems, which allows the design teams to tailor components that flow together. When third-party developers design software and accessories for Apple’s products, they follow an exact blueprint to ensure full compatibility because there’s no market fragmentation. This is why iOS is always a few steps ahead of Android when it comes to optimization, and the same is true for MacOS when compared to Windows. Had Apple taken gaming seriously in the 90s when personal computers first became mainstream, I wonder if pioneer PC gamers would have ended up being Mac gamers instead. Clearly, Macs today are not known for gaming. But, the components of the idea to make them serious gaming machines are definitely there (minus Apple seeming to hate consumers upgrading their own hardware).
The chances of Microsoft doing something like this are admittedly slim. But, perhaps significant gaming-oriented changes could come to Windows by other means. Microsoft has been paying more and more attention to the PC gaming sector in recent years after ignoring it since the original Xbox took off. Now, formerly Xbox-only exclusives are now on Windows via the Play Anywhere program, like Forza.
Windows 10 also has a ‘Game Mode’ feature. It’s designed to boost performance while playing, although it seems to be mostly snake oil for the time being. Hopefully, Microsoft will put some serious effort into it soon enough and turn it into a truly useful feature. It might not be as good as a completely streamlined, game-ready OS like what I’ve proposed, but it would at least be a step in the right direction.