18 months ago, Microsoft announced that one of the most significant advancements in its new Xbox Series X console would be coming to PC — the ability to stream enormous amounts of data from a blazing fast NVMe solid state drive to your GPU, rather than relying on your pesky CPU to decompress it first — and that it would be available in early 2019. Game developers would be able to load more intricate worlds, and they would be able to load them more quickly than they could previously.
Microsoft has now announced the availability of the DirectStorage API. “Beginning today, Windows games will be able to ship with DirectStorage support. “This public SDK release ushers in a new era of fast load times and detailed environments in PC games by enabling developers to more completely leverage the speed of the latest storage devices,” according to a blog post published by the developer community.
A further piece of good news is that it will function with both Windows 10 and Windows 11, despite the fact that Microsoft states that Windows 11 is “our favored path for gaming.”
Before you rush out to find a game to finally take advantage of that lightning-fast NVMe 4.0 stick drive and motherboard, you should be aware that the titles aren’t yet available for purchase. While developers have had access to the technology since July, this is simply the beginning of the process for those who want to get their hands dirty. In reality, the official launch of DirectStorage may not occur until the Game Developers Conference on March 23rd, when AMD and developer Luminous Productions will discuss how they integrated the technology into Forspoken, one of the first showcase titles for the technology. By the way, you won’t be able to play Forspoken until October 11th, due to the fact that the game was just recently postponed.
You might also have some reasonable reservations about whether developers will be able to fully exploit NVMe storage in the near future, given the fact that many PC gamers have yet to upgrade to faster NVMe SSDs and that games that promoted SSDs, such as Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart on the PlayStation 5, were found to be taking only a portion of their capabilities advantage. Indeed, some game developers may still be forced to target UHS-I microSD cards, which may only read at speeds of less than 100MB/sec rather to the 4,000-7,000MB/sec read speeds of a PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD, as a result of the Steam Deck.
While this is true, the fact that Windows games are theoretically capable of pulling off the same SSD tricks as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X means that there’s one less piece of hardware limiting the potential of next-gen gaming — and we’re eager for that previously unrealized potential to finally be realized.
Here’s the latest gameplay trailer for Forspoken, which shows the game running not only on a Sony PlayStation 5, but also on a Windows PC and the Xbox Series X, thanks to the use of high-speed SSD techniques: