For years, users have scoffed at Microsoft’s half-hearted efforts to build a PC game store for its Windows platform (including me). Finally, Microsoft reacted. Say hello to the new Xbox app for Windows 10, known simply as “Xbox” right now, it comes with Xbox Game Pass for PC and (almost) the entire catalog of major PC titles available through Microsoft’s own store.
It’s only the early days, still in beta, but it’s already far superior to the standard Microsoft Store Windows 10 for browsing PC games and worth a try if you’re using Windows 10 Update (1903 ) May 2019 or later. You can grab it from the Microsoft Store here, or with an Update Assistant for Windows 10 here.
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Xbox Game Pass for PC
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Navigation and connection
Connection is simple. All you need to do is click on the avatar icon at the top right and click on Login. You will be prompted to enter your Microsoft account, which can be created for free here.
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Once you’re signed in, a variety of new options are available to you, both at the top of the screen and at the bottom left.
The new options include:
- Game pass is a subscription service, currently priced at $ 5 during beta, giving you access to over 100 PC games for Windows 10. This section introduces the catalog.
- Social is where you can add friends, send messages or start voice chats.
- Shop lists everything Microsoft has for sale from a PC gaming perspective.
- The left bar is where your games live, for launching and uninstalling.
- The search bar at the top right allows you to quickly find games either in the store or in the Game Pass.
- The notification bell gives you a history of all your recent notifications on Xbox Live.
- Profile button Gives quick access to settings, your library, code usage, and your online status.
The Xbox app is currently missing a few notable sections, such as Xbox Clubs and other social features like the Xbox app social feed, but these aspects will likely come to light in future updates.
PC Game Pass
The first section that loads is Xbox Game Pass for PC, which shows the library of games available as part of the subscription. Signing up for Xbox Game Pass for PC costs $ 5 during the beta phase, with an introductory price of $ 1 for the first month. You can register on the Microsoft website.
Once your subscription is active, you get immediate access to the complete library of Xbox Game Pass PC titles. The games available change in and out on a monthly basis, depending on the contractual conditions between Microsoft and its partners. Some games stick around for months, while others come out much faster. Microsoft’s own games, however, are permanent items as part of the subscription, which is arguably worth it. Forza, Halo, Gears of War, and other major Microsoft franchises are all on the program, with future titles like The Outer Worlds, Wasteland 3, and Bleeding Edge all confirmed to join the party as well.
Finding games to play on Game Pass is as easy as scrolling down the page. Microsoft has some of its own recommendations, but at the bottom you can sort by category, browse the entire list, or just pick a game entirely at random.
The social features available in the new Xbox app are relatively straightforward at the moment, with streamlined profiles, missing Xbox clubs, and no social feeds. However, the available features work very well and showcase Microsoft’s efforts to speed up its historically relatively slow Xbox Live messaging system.
The search bar at the top of the Friends List allows you to quickly and easily search your current Friends List and will dynamically expand beyond your Friends List if the system detects that you are actually trying to add someone new, the same as Skype. Next to the search field is a button for creating new message groups.
Below the search box are two tabs for your friends list and active chats. At the bottom is Microsoft’s new “Request for Message” section, which attempts to combat spammers. If someone from outside your friends list sends you messages, the messages will end up in this overflow section instead.
Once you’re in an active chat, it’s simple to turn the chat into a voice room by clicking the headset icon on the screen. New control sections will open below using your Windows 10 accent color (red for me), allowing you to control your microphone settings, as well as the ability to exit chat. You can right-click a message to remove individual notes and click the ellipsis menu (…) to completely remove the chat, bring it back to message requests, or turn it off for now.
Xbox PC Store and Settings
The new Xbox PC store as part of this app is a huge jump in quality from the Microsoft Store itself, ditching casual mobile games in favor of basic PC titles. From there, it’s easy to browse the entire catalog of PC titles Microsoft offers. Each listing shows details on PC specs, screenshots and trailers, Mixer live streams from the game, and posts from developers who use the official Xbox Club system to deliver updates to their games. games. The system offers user reviews as well, but they currently lack some of the additional context that Steam reviews provide, although this can still be a useful tool in learning more about a game from the people who own it.
Fortunately, the new PC store also offers the option to select a storage device before committing to a download, something the main Microsoft Store has historically struggled with. Once your game is installed, it will appear in the left sidebar, along with a context menu for uninstalling.
If you click on your profile picture at the top of the app, you can access the code redemption, the ability to set your online status, your game library, and the main settings page. The options available at the time of this writing are a bit slim, but all the important things are on offer.
Some of the parameters that you can manipulate are as follows:
- Account gives you access to your order history, the status of your subscription, the ability to connect to another account and change your gamertag.
- General allows you to decide whether to launch on startup, configure background processing, change the default install location, and access offline game permissions.
- Notifications allows you to configure how and when notifications are received.
- audio allows you to configure a push to talk button, change your microphones and speakers and adapt the sound mix.
That’s about it (for now)
Even in its beta debut, the new Xbox app for Windows 10 is a huge step up from the Microsoft Store, which lacks design consistency and decent curation. The Xbox team have been diligent in responding to user feedback and adding new features, so expect to see more of this service relatively quickly.
If you want to try the app for yourself, you need to at least run Windows 10 May 2019 Update (Build 1903). You can then download it here.
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