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How well does Game Mode in the Windows 10 Creators Update actually work?

Razer Blade 14
Razer Blade 14 (Image credit: Windows Central)

By limiting background tasks, Game Mode seeks to increase the smoothness of games running on Windows 10, redirecting your system towards the game when it is activated. Microsoft stated that the feature would have modest improvements for Win32 titles, due to the non-standardized environment. But the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games typical of the Windows 10 Store should see immediate benefits.

I was curious as to what (if any) real-world benefits Game Mode would have for multitasking on my devices, and I came away with some mixed results. Keep reading for specifics.

What is Game Mode?

Heroes of the Storm — Minimal multiitasking

First, I decided to test the Win32 game Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's whimsical MOBA title that features iconic characters from various Blizzard universes. It is not a particularly intensive game, and the Razer Blade 14 should be able to totally crush it, with or without Game Mode.

Game Mode seemed to generate some modest improvements to the game's unlocked frame rate, sending it from 90 frames per second (FPS) to 100 FPS, up to 100 FPS to 110 FPS. In real-world terms, you're not going to notice a difference at such high frame rates, but it was a decent enough basis to start with.

These shots were taken with the bare minimum multitasking. I had my Slack app running in the background, but that's about it. Most of my programs are disabled at startup, giving me a relatively clean slate to work with.

Heroes of the Storm — With multitasking

While it seems like there were some modest gains to be had at a basic level, testing Heroes of the Storm in a multitasking scenario — which is essentially what Game Mode is supposed to be for — was the next obvious test.

With Microsoft Edge, Bluestacks' intensive Android emulator, and Netflix playing in the background, these are the effects Game Mode had on performance.

Again, not much is noticeably different here. But Heroes of the Storm isn't a UWP game, which Microsoft said would gain a larger benefit from Game Mode than Win32 titles.

Killer Instinct — Minimal multitasking

The best UWP test is probably Killer Instinct, which has an in-game benchmarking tool of its own. Here's a quick look at how it fared with Game Mode turned on and Game Mode turned off, with the same minimal background processes as the Heroes of the Storm test above.

Without multitasking, you can see that the results are locked across the board. The Razer Blade 14 probably has plenty of overhead for a game like Killer Instinct at 1080p, and as such, Game Mode isn't going to make a sliver of difference in this scenario. Turning Game Mode on improved Killer Instinct's benchmark score by a single point, but that's about it. With multitasking, however, it was a different story.

Killer Instinct — With multitasking

While Game Mode made zero difference in the non-multitasking scenario, with Bluestacks, Slack, Microsoft Edge, and a Netflix video playing, Killer Instinct's benchmarking test scored far higher with Game Mode enabled.

As you can see, Killer Instinct performed far higher in the multitasking scenario with Game Mode turned on. And I replicated these results after running through the same test three times.

Conclusion

Game Mode does produce some modest gains in certain scenarios. Perhaps you're grinding in a game, but need to render an Adobe Premier video in the background; Game Mode should enhance your gaming experience in some small way on higher-end hardware.

The Razer Blade 14 is a powerful machine, with a quad-core Intel "Kaby Lake" i7 processor and a GTX 1060 GPU. It can generally handle multitasking extremely well anyway, making Game Mode a little redundant.

We plan to run similar tests in the future on the Surface Pro 3, which has far less powerful internals. Until then, let us know in the comments if you have any positive (or negative) experiences with Game Mode for the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

28 Comments
  • Very bad ... I play BF1 ,so after the update i tried the mode and my framerate drop down that the game was lagging so i turnd it off and everything was back to good.
  • On a high end PC it's not going to do much.  It will make a difference on lower end hardware.  A review on another site has shown that IIRC.
  • how do you display FPS in windows10
  • The same as any other Windows version?
  • You have multiple options. If you're playing a game on Steam you can go in Settings / In-Game, and activate the FPS counter. If it's not on Steam and you have an Nvidia card, I think there's an option in the card's settings to add an FPS counter.
  • Although an interesting first test. I'm not convinced it's very relevant for the audience I presume game mode is for.
    Most gamers interested in improving their framerate have already killed every possible task they can to eek out every last fps from their poor, abused hardware. They will likely not be multitasking much. For them it would be more relevant to see what game mode can offer when not running background applications, but running a highly taxing game at 4K resolution. Would Game mode be able to improve the situation in such a scenario?
  • Yup. At least that the case for me. I treat my gaming PC like a baby. Nothing goes on it that is questionable, and background tasks get killed with every restart. Game mode looked interesting when the Creators Update rolled out, but so far I haven't seen much that makes things noticeably better. That's fine, free is free. In a lot of cases, that makes me a minority. Not everyone has more than device to use and treat a high-end PC like a clean-room, but I won't understand someone who will run a graphic intensive game without closing browsers or anything that could affect performance.
  • its utterly useless because it doesn't recognise RO2 Heroes of Stalingrad from 2011...but does recognise Silent Hunter 3 from 2007. its begs the question...that wont be answered probably.
  • I don't understand how the mode is "utterly useless" simply because it doesn't improve a specific game.  However, I'm sure you can use the Feedback app and report this, if you really wanted to ask that question.
  • if it recognises a game that is 4 years older than the one I've mentioned - the one that I play regularly, the one that came out in 2011 then, in my mind, that makes it pretty much u/s. if its not freeing up resources for a newer game but happy to do so for an older game, what good is it and where's the logic in that? it is useless because I cant use it. and your response using a well balanced logic is also useless and somewhat sarcastic. if this was happening to you and you read a response like yours you may - just may - react a little similarly to me. and for clarity your 'it doesn't improve a specific game' suggests you've even misread my post. it isn't about 'improving' it simply doesn't recognise.
  • I figured that the point of Game Mode was to "improve game experiences."  I understand your point, that if they don't recognise a game, it isn't going to offer any improvements. So, same question as before.  Have you tried reporting it to Microsoft?
  • I don't wish to be a semantics **** but you didn't ask a question - you offered a suggestion. but to answer your shrouded question - no, I'm not going to bother. Microsoft, like general corporations offer a one size fits all solution and generally it works out well for Microsoft - a homogenous solution that generally fits everyone. my game is from 2011. its a top game if you haven't played it - merciless slaughter. you will die. I highly recommend it. but the fact remains that through an oddity of their own design this 'game mode' app doesn't recognise a newer game over an older one. that, is an anomaly of modern technology that is neither worth investigating or perusing. I just thought, oh, they've really tried to get this right. but I'm only 1 of a few, possibly, in a world of billions. it didn't work out, so what. it was worth a try - even though it bothers when it shouldn't! I wish you a pleasant weekend. please forgive my somewhat irritable responses. I'm opening a beer. :)
  • You can press Windows Key and G, and it'll bring up a little window in game asking if this is a game. Be advised it may take a few attempts to actually show. Click the checkbox and it'll get added then all the game bar functions will work (including game mode I believe, though not 100% on that)
  • Hopefully you had a good weekend and beer. :) I understand your frustration, really.  I haven't experimented with Game mode, as I am not a gamer, so I'm not aware of any of the aspects of using it.  As Daniel Ratcliffe mentioned, perhaps bringing up the menu to specify it is a game might help.
  • It also recognizes Citrix Remote Access Client as a game as well. I think it has something to do with the DirectX calls on startup for auto-recognition. 
  • Game mode just causes Forza Horizon 3 to crash on me.
  • It doesn't works as per LINUS TECH TIPS.he tested it.
  • It would be nice if the author would write the results into the article, especially for those of us on the mobile app (cannot zoom in pictures)
  • I have a Dell Inspiron 11 with a Core m3 and 4GB of RAM. I use Game Mode often, especially when I play Halo Wars Definitive Edition. It works fantastic.
  • Game Mode doesn't work period.  There's a YouTuber that does gaming on lesser hardware and found that it doesn't make a small diff in fps. BTW set it so that it quits battle.net app each time you play a Blizzard game.  The B.net app is a resource hog.
  • For every game I've tried Game Mode on it's made the game worse; laggy, stuttering, lower FPS. :( I'd love for Microsoft to explain exactly what I am doing wrong since it's supposed to help, not hurt.
  • Maybe I'm missing something here but I assume the number in the top left of each screenshot is the FPS and all of the Killer Instinct shots it's just sitting at 59-60, with or without multitasking, so how is that a clear improvement in any way. Again, maybe I'm missing something here.
  • I'm not sure if that's the case, but if Game Mode prevents background task like Indexing service or other maintenance tasks from running while gaming or running resource intensive tasks then I'm sold.
  • An improvement to Game Mode that I'd like to see is a global notification pause. That would stop notifications from covering up UI elements in games.
  • This matches other testers. 5-10 FPS improvement generally speaking. Great for low spec hardware running games a touch out its ballpark, like a tablet, or laptop. Little to no benefit for high speced gaming machines (unless perhaps your running it in higher res that it can cope with). Other supposed benefit is more consistant framerates ie not just average, but less drops.
  • On surface 4 pro i5 256 gaming before gaming mode was either not worth it or would be a lot of work to make it work.   With game mode on the games work and are very playable. Not like my gaming rig but worth it for gaming on the go. 
  • I tried to play Resident Evil on my Surface pro 4 core i5 and 4gb ram. It didnt play. But with game mode, it actually plays. So i'd say it works.
  • I have to format the computer now since I got creators update. It's getting slow.