Many of Microsoft's efforts in PC gaming over the year haven't exactly hit the mark. However, the Windows 10 Game Bar is one of the good ones, and it's about to get a whole lot better.
Microsoft detailed new features heading to the Windows 10 Game Bar for PC gaming, with some fan-inspired upgrades and a couple that are a bit of a surprise.
In a blog post on Xbox Wire, Microsoft called back to the PC Gaming Idea Drive it kick-started a while ago, soliciting feedback on how it could improve Windows 10 for gaming. We're starting to see some early fruits of that feedback now, with features that should improve Windows 10's gaming social aspects, features for game streamers and social butterflies, and performance stats for techies. As always, all of these features will be accessible by hitting Windows Key + G, while running a game. Of course, you can also disable them completely.
This update will be available to users on the Windows 10 October 2018 update, who are part of the Windows Gaming Insider flight ring, and it will roll out more generally in the near future.
Quick Spotify access
You can now control Spotify for Windows 10 (you can download that here without minimizing your game.
Simply pull up the Windows 10 Game Bar, and you'll be able to control your media and volume mix right from the overlay. You can even browse the Spotify catalog straight from the overlay, which is pretty impressive, as well as Spotify's connected device list, in case you're listening on a connected speaker or some other system.
Create memes (no, really)
With the latest Windows 10 Game Bar update, Microsoft is extended some of the social tools it added previously when it began allowing users to take screenshots and instantly share them to a connected Twitter account without leaving your game. Now, you'll also be able to annotate them with classic meme-style text for maximum memery. Using this overlay widget, you'll be able to browse and manage recent captures, as usual.
Customizable widget-based UI
The Windows 10 Game Bar is fully widget-based, allowing you to tailor not only what is on the Game Bar itself, but also what appears in the overlay. Simply hit the menu on the left to toggle on or off different aspects. Each widget can also be moved around, resized, and pinned to the screen.
MUCH faster social systems
A long-term pet peeve of mine with Microsoft's social systems for Xbox has been how painfully slow they've been, across both Xbox One and Windows 10. Their sluggishness has forced many gamers over to Discord for its speed and ease of use, but with this update Microsoft is clearly prioritizing speed.
Dubbed Xbox Chat (beta) and Xbox Social (beta), the two widgets provide rapid access to your friends list, friend search, party access, and chats, offering a tab-style widget for chats. These can also be resized and moved around or disabled entirely via the settings menu.
More steps forward
The relatively rapid response to PC gamer feedback on the Game Bar has been pretty impressive. Being able to access sound mix, performance graphs, and game capture systems with a couple of keyboard shortcuts is great, and the boosted speed for Xbox Live's social systems is encouraging.
These systems are hitting the Windows Gaming Insider flighting group on the Xbox Insider Hub app for Windows 10 initially, for users on the October 2018 update. It'll roll out more generally later on, likely with some added polish.
Cheap PC accessories we love
Take a gander at these awesome PC accessories, all of which will enhance your Windows experience.
Anker 4 port USB 3.0 hub ($10 at Amazon)
Whether on a desktop or laptop PC, you always need more ports to connect things to. This hub gives you an additional four USB 3.0 Type A ports.
Ikea Fixa Cable Management System ($11 at Amazon)
This IKEA cable management kit is your ticket to a clean setup. It's simple and functional.
NZXT Puck ($20 at Amazon)
This clever little accessory has powerful magnets on the rear to make it stick to any of the metal panels on your PC case or anything else. It's great for hanging accessories like headsets.
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