Game Mode for Windows 10 showed up in a recent Windows Insider build as a checkbox you can enable and disable, but what does it do exactly?
We've written about Game Mode for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) before, but now we have the full rundown — directly from Microsoft — on how this new system feature works.
In a discussion with Kevin Gammill of the Xbox Platform team, we learned that Game Mode is a new system feature for Windows 10 that focuses your GPU and CPU on a Game Mode-enabled process.
The goal behind Game Mode is consistency, rather than flat performance boosts (although it will bring some of that too). Game Mode will prevent system tasks from stealing resources from your games, making frame rates and performance generally more consistent. You should see fewer dropped frames as a result of Game Mode, specifically during scenes and situations that are more intensive on your system's hardware. Game Mode will also limit CPU thread contention between your games and existing system processes, helping to speed things up even further. The concepts behind Game Mode are already available on Xbox One, which gives games priority access to system resources.
Enabling Game Mode will be as simple as flipping a switch via the Xbox Game Bar, found on Windows 10 by pressing the Windows key and G. Windows 10 will remember which games have Game Mode enabled until you turn it off.
Microsoft told me that while Win32 PC games (typical of Steam) will see some benefits from Game Mode, it will be UWP games (typical of the Windows 10 Store) that see the biggest improvements. This is because the UWP environment is a little more standardized than Win32, and Microsoft can more easily optimize the feature as a result. Microsoft is working with their hardware partners, including Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA, to make sure Game Mode is as good as it can be, optimizing for the most popular hardware configurations available.
Microsoft told me that while Win32 PC games will see some benefits from Game Mode, it will be UWP games that see the biggest improvements.
Game Mode will be enabled by default for certain games that have undergone thorough testing. So expect first-party UWP games such as Halo Wars 2 and Forza Horizon 3 to leverage Game Mode out of the box.
I asked Microsoft to describe a scenario where you might want to disable Game Mode, and the engineer noted a situation where he wanted to continue rendering at high-speed in Adobe Lightroom in the background, while still enjoying Diablo 3 in the foreground. To that end, it's good that Microsoft is providing players with the option to disable Game Mode manually for those rigs capable of intensive multi-tasking.
Speaking of multi-tasking, I also asked to what extent Game Mode would degrade your system while enabled. For now, notifications will still pop, Cortana and other important Windows features you expect to work will still run. Microsoft is still iterating on just how much of your system it will impede when Game Mode ships fully this spring with the Windows 10 Creators Update. That said, Game Mode will dynamically disable itself when you minimize or set your game into the background, giving your system full access to your hardware while you begin multi-tasking. This is similar to how the Xbox One works today. It sounds as though Game Mode will generally be a seamless experience for those who utilize it.
I asked about "Game Mode enabled Universal Windows Apps,"(a phrase that appeared in earlier documentation), and was told that developers won't have to do anything to support Game Mode in their games, as it will be enabled by default at a system level. However, Microsoft is exploring ways developers can further leverage Game Mode for their games to bring additional benefits down the line.
The first version of Game Mode will appear in Build 15019 on the Windows 10 Fast Ring, with further improvements already running on internal builds ready for the coming weeks. We'll be doing some thorough testing on Game Mode shortly, so stay tuned for information on how much you can expect it to boost performance!