DirectStorage uses GPU decompression, rather than using the PC’s CPU for decompressing game assets, such as textures and other graphics. With modern PC games becoming ever more ambitious, the traditional CPU decompression can cause performance bottlenecks. Removing that bottleneck by moving decompression to the graphics card of a gaming PC (or the best gaming laptops) means games could load up a lot faster – especially when installed in the latest generation of Gen4 NVMe SSDs.
This could lead to PC games starting up almost instantly, while load times between levels, game-over screens and cut scenes could one day be a thing of the past. With both the Xbox Series X (which uses similar tech to the PC version of DirectStorage, being a Microsoft product) and Sony’s PlayStation 5 going hard on near-instant load times, it looks like PC gamers will also benefit – but there’s a problem.
Analysis: where are the games?
As The Verge reports, DirectStorage 1.1 isn’t something that Microsoft can implement alone. First, it needs the support of graphics card makers to ensure that their GPUs can do the essential decompressing. The good news is that Nvidia’s latest Game Ready Driver 526.47 includes support for DirectStorage 1.1, as does Intel’s Arc graphics driver 101.3793. Meanwhile, AMD is reportedly finalizing its drivers to support DirectStorage 1.1.
While that bodes well for the new technology, it also needs to be supported by the games themselves, and that in turn requires game developers including support while making the game – and so far, the number of PC games that make use of DirectStorage is… a big, fat, zero.
While DirectStorage has real potential to revolutionize PC games – who doesn’t love the idea of spending less time waiting for games to load, and more time playing? – without any games that support the feature, it’s hard to get too excited just now.
Intel, Nvidia and AMD obviously see this as the future of PC games, so hopefully game devs get on board soon – otherwise it could be another misfire in Microsoft’s checkered past when it comes to PC gaming.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.