DX10 vs the rest of the world
As far as graphics drivers are concerned, Windows XP is in the strongest position. The performance garnered from this operating system was great everywhere except for Far Cry 2 – and judging by the minor differences in framerates between DX10 and DX9 and Vista, it appears that this engine was developed with DX10 in mind.
If you're planning to play World in Conflict in DX9 mode for instance, you'll get the best framerates in Windows XP. GRID is the same – you'll get a couple more frames out of this game in XP than any other OS. Of course, that begs the question: what about DX10?
It's true that you're going to need Vista or Windows 7 if you want to run DX10 games. The real question is, do you actually want to run games in DX10 mode? World in Conflict certainly looks a lot better in DX10, but it's still the same game in DX9 and you suffer a major penalty for turning on all that graphical loveliness, dropping from 42fps to 27fps in Vista.
To be fair to Massive Entertainment, this was one of the first DX10 titles and possibly isn't as optimised as it could be. Even Microsoft isn't pushing DX10 for its Games for Windows titles as much as it did initially.
The official Games for Windows site lists a total of nine games and some of those are rather suspect – Hellgate: London suffered an unfortunate early death, while Age of Conan's DX10 implementation still isn't live (there's a cut-down client being tested right now, but many of the effects that were shown off nearly a year ago aren't present).
Crysis is still one of the platform's best looking titles, although it's hardly cutting-edge now. For many gamers, the lack of any real benefit to DX10 is still the problem – it just doesn't do enough to warrant going out of your way to upgrade to. Sure, there are some nice effects, but clever shader programming can knock out incredible effects in DX9 too. Cast your eyes over GRID's loveliness for simple proof of this.
Game developers don't want to limit themselves to a niche of the existing market just for the odd effect either – it's simply not worth it. You only need look at the popularity of the likes of WoW to see that games don't need hi-tech visuals to be successful.
You also shouldn't forget that a fair chunk of games are console ports and that Xbox 360 doesn't have a pile of DX10 cleverness hiding behind the red ring of death – it's DX9 in nature (although admittedly with some clever DX10-like tricks up its wizard's sleeve).
So we're not convinced about DX10 as a selling point for an OS although, to be fair, it's a great way of showing off the capabilities of your graphics card. It's telling that DirectX 11 isn't going to have quite the same marketing push that its predecessor did (who can forget the ridiculous Flight Simulator images Microsoft pushed out to show how much better DX10 was than DX9). In other words don't expect any DirectX 11 only games to appear any time soon.