Zoom-o: Windows 10 ‘Game Mode’ to boost performance

Windows 10 will add a ‘Game Mode’ to “improve the performance of your PC games”, Microsoft have announced. They don’t say much about what it actually is but hey, free performance boosts are always welcome. I’d also accept it changing my desktop wallpaper to some glowy tendril-y abstract art made in 1999 with a pirated copy of Photoshop following a tutorial, adding System Shock 2 noises as system sounds, pausing my Napster downloads, and setting my AOL Instant Messenger away status. That’s what I’d want from a Game Mode, at least.

Mike Ybarra, Microsoft’s head of platform engineering for Xbox, gave a very rough outline in Friday’s announcement:

“Our vision is for Game Mode to optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming. This is a big update for Windows; we’re looking forward to Insiders getting their hands on this new feature for further testing, and we’ll have much more to share on what it is and how it works soon, so stayed tuned.”

Maybe you could start with sharing anything on what it is and how it works. At this point, their statements are vague enough that I’ve no idea whether this is hugely exciting or a minor bullet point. Noticeable gains for all games would be grand. Minor improvements for the handful of games built on Windows 10’s UWP platform, eh, that would far less interesting. Dunno, mate.

(Oh, hey! Looks like it’s not just for UWP games, at least.)

Windows 10 isn’t a slouch as it is. Soon after launch in 2015, it already ran games faster than Windows 7 and 8, according to numbers crunched by the folks at cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer.

The announcement also goes into changes planned for Microsoft’s livestreaming service Beam, the Xbox app, and tournaments on Xbox Live, but only seven people use any of that so I’ll not dwell on it.


  1. Ghostwise says:

    You certainly seem to have a fondness for that old stock photo. :-)

  2. 4026 says:

    I assume, based on Microsoft’s previous efforts, that they’re using a pretty loose definition of “performance” here, and the main features of Game Mode are:
    – Instantly share screenshots to our new social network, Facebing Live!
    – Make in-app purchases from an in-game overlay!
    – Collects anonymous usage data to improve our products.
    – Targeted advertising popups.
    – Your privacy is important to us.

    • Syrion says:

      Based on the wording of that “announcement” it sure sounds like it will not go without a mandatory login to something, somewhere, for some reason.

    • Premium User Badge

      distantlurker says:

      I’m sure it’ll make excellent use of the power of the cloud.

      Clouds are like, super powerful you guys.

    • Joibel says:

      You’re all wrongly assuming that by performance they mean number of framzepersecond.
      Actually what they mean is the performance of their bank account.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      Based on what we know from its already current usage in the Xbone, it’s not any of that. Because none of that increases performance.

      I’m still inclined to believe it’s mostly snake oil like all the other “game performance improvement” software out there, but since this will be baked into the OS itself, I guess I might as well look forward to seeing exactly what it does differently.

      But, yeah. Keep up the good work.

  3. Werthead says:

    “WE ARE GOING TO DO A THING!” *beams*
    Can you be more specific?
    “NO.” *beams*

  4. Ben Damage says:

    MZAR! cheese is where I keep it…

  5. LexW1 says:

    Given how efficiently Win10 already runs games, and that we’re well into the era of multiple cores and even more threads, it’s hard to believe that this would offer any kind of meaningful performance gain to normal users.

  6. Noc says:

    I wonder if this just amounts to quietly putting Windows Defender to sleep or something, or temporarily turning off some other resource-chugging feature that people-who-play-games have been manually turning off already.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Pretty much. It minimises resources used by background apps while prioritising the game for resources such as memory.

      • Don Reba says:

        Like in XP and all the later systems, where we could adjust the process scheduler to focus on foreground programs or background services?

        link to i.imgur.com

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          An OS scheduler is a really low-level thing that determines which program is running on the CPU at any given instant. That setting is a little tweak, it doesn’t put background services to sleep for an extended period of time.

  7. napoleonic says:

    “cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer.”

    I lol’d.

  8. LazyAssMF says:

    Well, i’ve read cpl of times now that this “Game Mode” supposedly acts as xbone’s does: It closes unneeded proceses or lowers their mem and CPU usage so PC has more resources available to work with.
    Pretty much any “game mode” software does this so i’m exited to see if it actually helps.

    • Sandepande says:

      It’s a good thing. Like my 65-year old father who’s keen on shooters but isn’t super-efficient Windows user, even though he builds his own PCs.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I have to agree. Your father genuinely sounds like a good thing.

    • Herring says:

      “It closes unneeded processes…”

      Like Steam.exe ;)

      • LazyAssMF says:

        lol I sure hope not otherwise it’s doomed to fail miserably. I mean it’s MS we’re talking about here so… that could damn well happen. XD

    • mattevansc3 says:

      The main caveat seems to be that the game itself has to have Game Mode enabled otherwise it won’t get the resource priority.

      • rabbit says:

        i don’t want to live in a world where my games don’t have game mode active by default

        • pepperfez says:

          You have to switch some of them over manually from srs bsns mode.

      • Don Reba says:

        What’s there to prevent every other program that comes out thereafter from enabling Game Mode for itself? Their developers can truthfully advertise it as a performance improvement in the new version.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      It won’t because exactly 0% of modern gaming PCs are slowed down by a lack of memory or CPU power.

      GPU plus primary storage are the bottleneck most of the time, with a tiny bit of RAM speed. None of which will be helped by disabling background processes.

      • ZigomatiX says:

        Your first point is definetely wrong. I’d point you to Steam hardware surveys but can’t access Steam’s domain atm.
        Has always, we are part of the few % with advanced knowledge in hardware.
        So while it’s true that GPU (and to a lesser extend) storage are probably the main bottleneck for gamers with a minimal hardware awareness (mainly due to budget), there is still a great load of people using obsolete CPU and/or limited amount of memory.
        For some games 8Go isn’t enough anymore (furthermore if you consider that half of it may be used by third party softwares) and i myself had CPU bottleneck in some games few months ago (with a i5 3570 !).
        On that last point, i’m still not convinced that Denuvo wasn’t the culprit, has most of them used it (RotTombRaider, DAI, JC3,…).

  9. eeguest says:

    yeah, a feature to disable Windows key would also be nice, cause right now when I’m punching in Overwatch I get teleported to desktop.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      There’s tons of keyboards for sale with a ‘Winlock’ on them these days, which does exactly that with the press of a button.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I thought most games blocked the Windows key.
      Then I realised I just never pressed it when gaming.

      • Silent_Thunder says:

        Hell some even intercept it before it reaches the OS layer. IL2:BOS for instance uses the combo “right win” + “=/-” keys as a default keybind for one of the engine management tweaks, fuel mixture IIRC.

      • April March says:

        Windows 10 tells you with such earnestness that you can play Win+G to save a screenshot, like it’s super excited to share this tidbit with you.

        It probably uploads to screenshot to Bing or something.

  10. mattevansc3 says:

    Mike Ybarra (Xbox Platform lead) confirmed it will work with Win32 programs so it won’t just be UWP apps.

  11. GenialityOfEvil says:

    So, basically they made Razer Cortex/IObit game booster/20 other freeware programs that have been around for 10 years.

    • GenialityOfEvil says:

      Not that I’m complaining. Just saying, took long enough.

    • LazyAssMF says:

      Yep, pretty much altho this could actually free more resources because it supposedly puts windows processes in background mode or something.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        I’m imagining an episode of Reboot where System Idle Process is hogtied and dragged through the streets while all the zeroes and ones throw rotten vegetables at it.

    • Duckeenie says:

      It took so long because they knew it was a waste of time because any operating system worth it’s salt already manages it’s resources by default. No third party tools required. The new game mode will likely be a Trojan horse packed with crap that fulfils Microsoft’s desires more than anyone else’s.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    “I’d also accept it changing my desktop wallpaper to some glowy tendril-y abstract art made in 1999 with a pirated copy of Photoshop following a tutorial, adding System Shock 2 noises as system sounds, pausing my Napster downloads, and setting my AOL Instant Messenger away status. That’s what I’d want from a Game Mode, at least.”

    *wiping a tear from my eye*


    just beautiful

  13. fray_bentos says:

    AOL sucks, ICQ, FTW!

    • disconnect says:

      UH OH

    • PostieDoc says:

      Hah, I used ICQ all the time while playing Ultima Online.

    • fray_bentos says:

      And, Who remembers of those days of internet innocence, when you could be “random chatted” by a stranger with a preference for your preferred age group, gender, and location…

  14. Fede says:

    I wish they introduced a Work mode.

    – let users prioritize the use of bandwith (“I want to deliver this vital project to the customer, please stop using all my bandwidth downloading who-knows-what since Windows Update is saying there are no updates”)
    – let users prioritize the use of cpu resources (“I need to complete this computation, please stop installing unscheduled updates”)
    – stop adding folders opened twice or thrice to Rapid access (or whatever its English name), I want only important and useful stuff there

    • Ghostwise says:

      FWIW you can disable Win10’s peer-to-peer distribution function in the settings, and right click to remove folders from the Quick Access list.

      Also you can do the mash potato, and you can do the twist, but there’s no relation.

      • All is Well says:

        You can also go into Folder Options, and look for the “Privacy” options under the General tab. There’s a checkbox to enable/disable frequently used folders showing up in Quick access.

        • Fede says:

          I sure did, peer-to-peer has neever be enanbled. I chose disable for every option that meant sending data to Microsoft, but for some reason Win10 stills uses up lots of bandwdth at irregular intervals.
          Not as frequently nowadays, thankfully, but sometimes it comes up at the wrong time.

          @All is Well
          Thanks, done! I kept removing them manually and it got old fast.

          • Jenuall says:

            Try setting you network connection to “metered” if you’re getting too much background bandwidth usage from Windows 10. If you’re connected via Ethernet you’ll need to do some minor Registry tweaking to achieve this, but it’s not too difficult.

            You will need to manually manage windows updates once you’re on a metered connection.

          • Save Me Grilled Cheesus says:

            To get rid of most of Win 10’s bandwidth stealing, I recommend Spybot Antibeacon. Its free from the Spybot guys, so google.
            It shuts down all of the mysterious crap traffic while still leaving important traffic like Windows Update and Windows Defender running. It also has granular control for what you want to disable and undo, so you wont bork your system by learning you shut off something important a few months down the road.

  15. Beernut says:

    Could be something real, or could as well be some kind of gpu-agnostic geforce-experience-clone which determines “optimized” settings for a game based on the detected hardware and essentially just lowers the detail in exchange for frames.

    A more optimistic interpretation of this announcement could be a mode in which “non-essential” system-services are disabled/postponed or lowered in terms of their cpu-priority while fullscreen-3d-games are being run. But since most games are mostly limited by the GPU-performance, I’m sceptical as to how much this would improve the average experience.

  16. waltC says:

    I find even the latest Win10 Insider builds–currently on 15007–to be far better for my gaming demands than any other version of Windows I’ve used through the years–it is surprising how incompatible at times Win7 can be, etc. Accordingly, I think “Game Mode” is a GUI-related gimmick allowing you to organize your games more efficiently and so on. Most people on PCs worked that out for themselves long ago, so it will be interesting to see what Microsoft does with this. So far, looks just about 100% GUI form and marketing to me…;)

  17. Avus says:

    Let’s just take a look at MS “achievements” in PC gaming… GFWL, closed Ensemble Studio (maker of AoE) and ACES Studio (maker of MS FLight simulator), UWP game limitations, Windows Store limitations… All are either failed or failing. The only “good thing” that MS did to PC gaming was DirectX but that was not even an idea that was from MS. Google a company called Kinesoft. And how long MS had stagnated DX development since they created Xbox division in 2002. I really prefer MS doing less in the name of “for the PC gaming community” especially if their motive is to push Windows 10 upgrades, Windows Store, UWP…

    My Windows 10 already have a few “game modes”… my main one is called Steam and the secondary are called Origin, Uplay and GoG Galaxy…

    And for MS, your job should be making Windows more stable and making Windows update with much less problem.

    • Grizzly says:

      Despite that closing ensemble studios and ACES studio was surely regrettable, they also published their games in the first place…

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Excuse me we are all busy pretending that Microsoft executives are mustache-twirling cartoon villains. Don’t bring up valid points in their favor, you monster.

    • Save Me Grilled Cheesus says:

      I agree with you 100%, but I would add the 1 other good thing they’ve done since “embracing gaming.” The xbone controller (especially the elite), and standardization on PCs.
      When a PC game now needs a controller, its nice to just be able to plug in one and have it work, and feel so nice in the hand.
      Although, in the MS gives and takes away, of course the elite drivers don’t allow you to map keyboard keys to the controller, because THAT WOULD BE MADNESS!!!