Windows 7: A great gaming platform?

The official release is right around the corner, and some folks are looking forward to using the new OS. But is it an ideal platform for gamers too?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

With the release of Windows 7 in October, PC gamers will finally have another platform on which to play their favorite games. Those who didn't quite enjoy Windows Vista as a game platform or have stuck with Windows XP are probably looking forward to the opportunity to buy some new hardware, install Windows 7, and get the most out of their favorite games.

Windows 7

But is Windows 7 a promising gaming platform? Now that its development is over, it's time to ask questions. What kind of gaming experience will it offer? Does it have features that will help it beat out Windows Vista or Windows XP in the game space?

Let's take a look:

DirectX 11
DirectX 11, which is set to run on both Windows 7 and Windows Vista, is highly anticipated. A recent blog post on Advanced Micro Devices' official blog asserts that DirectX 11, "in combination with new graphics hardware, and in some cases Windows 7, brings significant changes to the computing experience, changes that mean upcoming games and other applications are about to get a lot better."

AMD believes that with the help of "a beast called the tessellator," game developers will be able to create even better-looking games. The company contends that titles will be "smoother, less blocky, and more organic-looking."

Thanks to better support for multithreading and GPGPU compatibility, game developers should be able to get more out of their games on Windows 7 than any previous version of the operating system.

AMD contends that games will have "higher frame rates" and "more realistic characters." It also believes that game development costs might be kept down, thanks to a simplified, more efficient Windows 7.

In a recent posting on the Windows Partner blog, Intel's Brandon LeBlanc wrote that Windows 7 will be a far more efficient platform than its predecessor. According to LeBlanc, Microsoft worked with Intel to implement "a new feature called SMT parking, which provided additional support for the Windows 7 scheduler for Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, enabling better performance on hyperthreaded, multicore Intel processors."

Nvidia product manager Chris Daniel wrote on the Windows Team blog last week that Windows 7 is "the first Windows operating system to treat the graphics-processing unit as a real peer to the CPU." He went on to say that Windows 7 is doing a fine job of making its platform more appealing to gamers.

"Microsoft is really opening up the immense parallel-computing horsepower of the GPU natively right in the operating system," he wrote.

Those are just a couple examples, but most companies, albeit with a vested interest in seeing Windows 7 succeed, are saying the platform is more powerful than its predecessors. Regardless of the motives, that can only be good for gamers.

Games Explorer
Perhaps Games Explorer won't top the list of the features that will help make Windows 7 a great gaming platform, but it could help.

Although that feature originally launched with Windows Vista, Microsoft has promised that the Windows 7 version of Games Explorer will make gamers much happier with what they find.

Once they add titles to their PCs, gamers will be able to update those games from the Games Explorer pane, rather than open up each title and download updates in the software. If they want in-game statistics, they can have that too.

Compatibility is always a major concern for gamers. Will the games they enjoy work on Windows 7?

From Crysis to Call of Duty to Far Cry, most major games will work with Windows 7. If you're looking for a full list, compiled by Windows 7 beta users, follow this link. It has all the games that work and don't work with Windows 7.

Project Natal
In an interview with CNET News earlier this month, Bill Gates said that Project Natal will also work with Windows PCs.

He said Windows PCs could be using Natal not just for games, "but for media consumption as a whole, and even if (users) connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting, in terms of meetings and collaboration and communication." But it will all start with gaming.

Bottom Line
Will Windows 7 be a great gaming platform? Until we get our hands on the final build, there's no guarantee. What we do know now is that Windows 7 has some features that should make it far more appealing than its predecessor. And by the looks of things, as development for the platform becomes easier over time, and hardware continues to improve, we could be enjoying a stellar PC-gaming experience.

We'll just have to wait and see if that really happens.

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