DirectX 12 Ultimate aims to secure parity between PC and Xbox Series X gaming

By Alex Donaldson, Thursday, 19 March 2020 17:01 GMT

DirectX 12 Ultimate is Microsoft’s new programming interface – and it’s being built with an aligned feature set between Xbox Series X and the next generation of PC games in mind.

When the Xbox Series X specs and features were revealed earlier this week, one question that was raised was what this all might mean for the future of PC gaming. PC games and Xbox are now more intertwined than ever, especially with Microsoft linking the two with cross-platform and cross-buy game releases on both, not to mention shared subscription services like Xbox Game Pass ultimate. As part of today’s DirectX Developer Day, Microsoft has detailed the technology it hopes will ensure the two remain in lockstep alongside each other: DirectX 12 Ultimate.

DirectX has powered a lot of video games for a long time, of course – the Xbox began life as the DirectXbox, after all – but DX12 Ultimate is what Micorosft is calling “the culmination” of 25 years of work on DirectX, a new version that delivers “an unprecedented alignment between PC and Xbox Series X.” As part of this announcement, Microsoft has additionally revealed a variety of developer benefits designed to make life easy for game creators, all designed as a way to encourage developers small and large to embrace the new features.

What does that mean for gamers? Well, it essentially means that there’ll be feature parity between games when DX12 Ultimate is involved – so PC players can get a guarantee of the Xbox Series X feature set for things like DirectX powered ray tracing, variable rate shading, mesh shaders, and sampler feedback. Basically, by buying PC hardware with the DirectX 12 Ultimate logo on the box, PC players know they’ll have access to all of the Xbox Series X features in games that support them.

DX12 Ultimate is described as a method to make things easier for developers while also providing gamers with “assurance that their hardware meets the highest bar for feature support in next-generation games.” But despite this, it also won’t become a barrier to existing PC owners – next-generation games that use DX12 Ultimate features will still be able to run on non-DX12 Ultimate hardware, albeit with some of the newer features and optimization disabled. DX12 Ultimate is designed to accompany and further the existing PC ecosystem, not replace it.

“Microsoft’s Game Stack exists to bring developers the tools they need to create bold, immersive game experiences, and DX12 Ultimate is the ideal tool to amplify gaming graphics,” says the official DX12 Ultimate reveal blog post. “DX12 Ultimate is the result of continual investment in the DirectX 12 platform made over the last five years to ensure that Xbox and Windows 10 remain at the very pinnacle of graphics technology. To further empower game developers to create games with stunning visuals, we enhanced features that are already beginning to transform gaming such as DirectX Raytracing and Variable Rate Shading, and have added new major features such as Mesh Shaders and Sampler Feedback.

“Together, these features represent many years of innovation from Microsoft and our partners in the hardware industry. DX12 Ultimate brings them all together in one common bundle, providing developers with a single key to unlock next-generation graphics on PC and Xbox Series X.”

To learn more about Direct X 12 Ultimate and what it means for gaming, check out the official DirectX blog, where the full feature set is detailed in excruciating technical detail. The Xbox Series X is out this holiday – and presumably, the first DX12 Ultimate PC hardware will follow suit.

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