Microsoft reveals DirectX 12

Microsoft and partners from Nvidia, AMD, Intel and Qualcomm showed off the next version of the DirectX gaming API, DirectX 12, at the 2014 Game Developers Conference today.

According to Microsoft officials, DirectX 12 will offer major improvements for developers across all Microsoft platforms: Windows, Xbox One and Windows mobile OSes. DirectX 12 seeks to enhance graphics efficiency for modern games by allowing developers to more easily spread tasks across multi-core CPUs, while reducing CPU "bottlenecks" that can reduce theoretical performance from dedicated video hardware.

Microsoft is also providing new tools for developers to access "lower-level" functionality of hardware, eliminating some of the performance hits caused by DirectX's communication between a game engine and system hardware. In 3DMark benchmarks, Microsoft estimates as much as a 50 percent improvement in CPU performance, though real-world results will likely vary.

This can provide a significant theoretical improvement to game performance, and is similar in many regards to AMD's Mantle technology, which has only been available to AMD GPU-owning consumers in Battlefield 4 so far. With DirectX 12, Microsoft is targeting a broader number of platforms — Nvidia suggested that many video cards running DirectX 11 are already compatible with DirectX 12, including the company's Fermi, Kepler and Maxwell series of cards.

Forza Motorsport 5 developer Turn 10 Studios showed off a version of the racing game running with Direct3D 12 on a PC powered by an Nvidia GeForce Titan Black, and according to the studio, bringing the title to DirectX 12 allowed it to run at a locked 60 frames per second. Microsoft claimed that DirectX 12 will also have more developed support for multiple GPUs — potentially including the ability for applications to use both CPU/GPU hybrid chipsets like Intel's Haswell and dedicated GPUs simultaneously.

Microsoft also stressed that DirectX 12 for mobile will increase power efficiency and allow for easier porting between console, PC and mobile.

Microsoft didn't give a specific date for DirectX 12-powered software, but estimated a "holiday 2015" window for games to ship using the API. Developers will have it sooner, with an official SDK later this year and an early access program before that. Microsoft didn't specify which versions of Windows would be supported with DirectX 12, though Windows Graphics developer Anuj Gossalia said they were aware of demand for Windows 7 support, and would speak more about that later this year.

Samit Sarkar contributed to this report.

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