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Windows 10's Xbox App: More about extending a console than embracing PC gaming

Hayden Dingman | March 9, 2015
Ever since Microsoft announced its plans to bring the Xbox and PC ecosystems closer together with Windows 10, I've been under the impression that this was more of a play towards giving the console crowd computer-y convenience rather than actually wooing over PC gamers. After a demo of the Windows 10 Xbox App at GDC today, I'm even more convinced.

Sunset Overdrive on PC! Sort of.

Which brings us to the last big feature: Xbox One-to-PC streaming capabilities. I got the chance for a brief hands-on with Sunset Overdrive running on the Xbox One and streamed to a PC, with both devices Ethernet-cabled together into the same network.

The Microsoft rep I spoke to couldn't tell me what the quality was after arriving at PC, but when I said "720p at 30 frames per second" he said that was probably right. I've followed up with Microsoft to see if they'll confirm.

Regardless, the current implementation of Xbox-to-PC streaming isn't nearly as good as Steam Link, my current bar for this type of technology. Over the course of five minutes or so with the game I could tell there was about a quarter second of input latency — playable, but barely.

The Microsoft rep then turned on the TV to show us that the console screen was basically in sync with the PC screen, but I can confirm the input lag was still there. The controller itself was hooked to the PC, which means somewhere between pressing a button, the PC encoding the signal, sending it the Xbox, Xbox decoding and then reacting and re-encoding, and then the Xbox sending a signal back, there's a problem. Obviously the PC is handling decoding the signal from the Xbox just fine, since the output is in sync. It's just the input lag itself that's the issue.

It's still in beta though, as is Windows 10 itself. We'll refrain from passing final judgment until Microsoft launches everything officially.

As for whether we'll ever see PC-to-Xbox streaming, like Steam Link? Microsoft says it's working on it, but it's part of a plan for the future. How distant in the future, I don't know.


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