High Tech

Microsoft releases DirectStorage: ‘a new era of fast load times and detailed worlds in PC games’

18 months ago, Microsoft revealed that one of the most important advancements in its new Xbox Series X console would be coming to PC — the ability to stream tremendous amounts of data from a blazing fast NVMe solid state drive to your GPU, instead of relying on your pesky CPU to decompress it first. The so-called “DirectStorage API” would let games load more detailed worlds, and load them more quickly than before.

Now, Microsoft says the DirectStorage API has arrived. “Starting today, Windows games can ship with DirectStorage. This public SDK release begins a new era of fast load times and detailed worlds in PC games by allowing developers to more fully utilize the speed of the latest storage devices,” reads the company’s blog post.

DirectStorage reads from NVMe SSD to RAM, copies to GPU memory, then decompresses on the GPU.

How DirectStorage works, in a nutshell.
Image: Microsoft

More good news: it’ll work with Windows 10, not just Windows 11, even though Microsoft says that 11 is “our recommended path for gaming.”

Before you rush out to find a game to finally take full advantage of that speedy NVMe 4.0 stick drive and compatible motherboard, though, you should know the games aren’t available yet. While developers have been able to preview the tech since July, today’s just a starting gun for many who might dig in. In fact, the real starting gun might not be till March 23rd at the Game Developers Conference, when AMD and developer Luminous Productions will explain how they brought DirectStorage to Forspoken, one of the first showcase games for the tech. It’ll be October 11th before you can try Forspoken, by the way, since that game got delayed just last week.

You might also have some understandable doubts that developers will really take full advantage of NVMe storage all that quickly, considering that many PC gamers still haven’t moved to fast NVMe SSDs, and because games that talked up SSD like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart on the PS5 were found to be taking somewhat less than full advantage of their capabilities. (Heck, the Steam Deck means that some games developers will still need to target UHS-I microSD cards that might read at under 100MB/sec, rather than the 4,000-7,000MB/sec of a PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD.)

Still, if Windows games can theoretically pull the same SSD tricks as the PS5 and Xbox Series X, that means there’s one less piece of the PC dragging down the potential of next-gen gaming — and we’re eager for that largely unrealized potential to finally be fulfilled.

Here’s the latest gameplay trailer for Forspoken, as it might run on a Sony PS5, but also on a Windows PC and the Xbox Series X using fast SSD techniques:

You love to see the rising tide raise all the boats.




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