Is Windows 7 a revolution for PC gamers?

“I don’t really have anything for you on that right now!” she demurs. “But you can imagine. What we can say is that we want to be visionary. And between the kinds of things that we are doing on Xbox, such as Natal, and the opportunities around the fact that we own the gaming platform on PC. And we now have this new touch interface...” her voice trails off, until she picks up the beat and is straight back in with... “But do we want to continue innovating? Absolutely! And we have lots of great games publishers who will be there with us to do that. So that’s really the only statement I can make at this time on that.”

Above: Leila Martine, Microsoft UK

Microsoft’s latest ultra-casual, free games offerings in Windows 7 are clearly perfect for mucking around with on netbooks. And we have to begrudgingly admit that the new online elements in games such as Checkers are pretty addictive. The market for netbooks is only going to continue to grow in 2010, with machines getting a size boost and more over the next year, as more manufacturers make use of Intel’s new thin and light ultra-low voltage (CULV) processor.

However, Martine thinks the most exciting time for gamers will be “when more of the NVIDIA Ion netbooks start to arrive on the market, when we’ll start to see significantly better media capabilities on netbooks, much improved graphics.” Though she is quick to add this: “It won’t be power gaming by any stretch of the imagination, but the overall experience will be much improved by moving some of the processing duties to the Ion GPU.”

But when it comes down to proper games, things come down to DirectX 11. Microsoft’s latest graphics and sound controller has seen improvements in terms of overall performance, shadow modelling and tessellation from DirectX 10, and it now allows your PC to use graphics cards to do a lot of the grunt work of running a game. All of this basically means you get better frame rates and faster gaming. And that you won’t find yourself sat waiting in load screens anywhere near as long.

Windows 7 also opens up opportunities for stuff like ATI’s bleeding-edge Eyefinity tech, which can now be used to set up any flight sim or driving game fan’s ultimate gaming experience – outputting your game to six hi-def screens at once. We’ve played DiRT 2 on such a set up and our eyes almost bled with joy.

“Windows 7 brings a lot to the PC gaming table, in my mind,” agrees Richard Huddy, Worldwide Developer Relations Manager for AMD. “There’s that list of technical features, most notably all the new stuff in DirectX 11. But on top of all the new technical benefits there is another really important trend.

“Consoles have really taken off over the last few years. But what I would say is that the majority of gaming publishers are developing for the PC, if only for the sheer numbers. So the variety of PC gaming has only continued to flourish. In terms of new devices coming out, new touch control technology coming out, we are continuing to innovate. And it’s that innovation that is really key for this latest version of Windows 7.”

Above: Brian Joyce, Alienware

The fact that DirectX 11 software support is also available in Vista massively helped the transition from Vista to Windows 7 for games developers. Back in November 2005 when Vista first came out the take-up of DirectX 10 by games developers was relatively slow. It took around six months after the OS’s launch for the first DirectX 10 game to ship.