Microsoft's Xbox One begins previewing Anniversary Updates, with Cortana and improved sharing

PC games are getting some Xbox Live love, too.

As Microsoft begins rolling out some of its Anniversary Update features to Windows 10 users, it’s also doing so with the Xbox One: adding Cortana, and enhancing how game clips can be captured, edited, and shared.

It’s not so simple as all that, though. Just as Microsoft is pushing PC features to its game console, so too are improvements on their way to the beta Xbox app for Windows 10, including 60 fps recording of Windows games from the Game bar, and the ability to share quick clips to Twitter. Meanwhile, Microsoft has begun fusing the Windows Store and the Xbox Store to provide a single experience across both platforms.

Microsoft isn’t releasing the new updates to everyone; that should occur later this summer. Instead, only those who have signed up for the Xbox Preview program will receive the Xbox One updates this week, and Windows Insiders should see the updates to the beta Xbox app in the coming weeks, Microsoft said. The updates will also roll out in waves, so there’s no real guarantee when you’ll actually receive them.

Why this matters: Microsoft’s said previously that Cortana would eventually make an appearance on the Xbox One, with a particular focus on games. It’s the closer ties with Windows 10—and especially the social aspects—that seem particularly significant, though. Rumors of more powerful Xboxes aside, Microsoft still hasn’t established the Xbox One as the dominant console, so bringing PC and console gamers closer together helps Microsoft cement an alliance between the two. And if that doesn’t work, making it easy to share clips on social media like Twitter can at least make it seem like it’s succeeding.

Xbox One: Cortana, no Kinect needed

Microsoft plans to roll out four new features to the Xbox One: Cortana, improved sharing, an improved Game Collection tab, and a way to quickly discover Facebook friends that (secretly?) game.

Cortana’s still the same digital assistant she always has been, though don’t expect her to be able to perform PC-related functions (like dictate email) without the associated Windows 10 app. Instead, she’s dedicated to game-specific functions such as inviting friends to game parties and launching games. You can also trigger Cortana while doing something else, like playing a game. There’s one big improvement, though—you don’t need a Kinect to command her, just a headset.

Xbox One cortana Microsoft

You can easily (and orally) form parties using Cortana, Microsoft says.

Microsoft also streamlined the way in which users can share screenshots, GameDVR clips, and more. So far, though, this optimization is just for the Xbox Live community—if you want to share to Twitter, for example, you’ll need the updates to the beta Xbox app.

This transition is important, however; Microsoft hasn’t made a big deal of the fact that the Xbox Live community tab in the Xbox One is actually a fairly sophisticated social network—just one that trades in clips and screenshots, rather than lengthy rants or meme GIFs. Facilitating that social network should help it gain traction. Ideally, of course, it will expand and siphon off users from other social networks, and that’s where the Facebook Friend Finder comes in.

The FFF is rather simple: If you add your Facebook account information to the Xbox One, Microsoft will sniff out your Facebook friends and find out if they play games, too. Previously, you could tap into this only via the Xbox app on Windows 10; now you can do it on the One, too.

Xbox One new game collection Microsoft

The Games tab scrolls vertically now, and Microsoft’s streamlined it a bit.

Finally, Microsoft has reorganized the Games tab on the Xbox One to scroll down, not across. It also appears that Microsoft may have lumped any external drives together with the internal drive within the Xbox One, so that your games simply appear in one shared pool of storage.

Windows 10’s Xbox app: recording, editing, sharing games

The Windows Game Bar (WIN + G) allows you to record supported Windows 10 games; Windows 10 Insider Build 14352 added support for some more popular third-party games: League of Legends, World of Warcraft, DOTA 2, Battlefield 4, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, and Diablo III. (Microsoft is merging the Windows Insider program with the Xbox One Preview program.)

The Game Bar also allows you to record clips while the game is maximized, in full-screen mode. And to take on YouTube, Microsoft now allows you to record those games at 60 frames per second, using a new “Very High” video quality setting. You should be able to see (and manage) those games from within your profile, too.

If you do record a video clip via the Game DVR function, you’ll be able to edit the clip using any video editor and then re-upload it to Xbox Live. That means you should be able to upload it to any other service as well—including Twitter, which Microsoft will explicitly support inside the app.

Windows 10, Xbox One move closer together

Microsoft has made it clear that the future of Windows gaming will combine both the Xbox and Windows PC worlds, and Microsoft’s finally begun moving the two closer together.

Xbox One stores view Microsoft

A look at the revamped Xbox One store.

Microsoft has said that it’s begun to combine the “best” of the Xbox Store and Windows Store into a single cohesive experience—though there are still two separate marketplaces. On the Xbox One, Microsoft said it should be easier to pick out which games are currently on sale, and to decide whether they’re worth buying with more textual reviews written by users. (For now, it appears that UWP apps that span both platforms will be given pride of place.)

In the Windows Store, Microsoft said you’ll be able to browse and purchase bundles, episodic games, and season passes. Right now, you have to dig through the app description to discover if there’s any DLC or other extras.

On Xbox Live, though, the notion of a single cohesive experience has moved a bit further forward, though. Xbox One games like Quantum Break have their own Game Hubs, or dedicated mini-sites to talk about the game, updates, and so on. “Top” PC games like League of Legends will soon be getting their own Game Hubs.

Xbox One Win32 gamehub Microsoft

PC games will receive their own dedicated Game Hubs.

Microsoft also said that you’ll have greater control over what you share to Xbox Live, so that you can pick and choose the best parts of your gaming life—just like Facebook!

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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