Microsoft is launching its Windows Vista operating system around the world today, having pledged that the new platform will provide significant benefits to gamers and game developers.
Vista introduces DirectX 10, a new graphics API that will enable developers to take advantage of new effects and techniques that Windows XP is unable to replicate. Games like Crysis from EA will provide flagship support in the core gamer market.
The new OS also introduces the Vista Games Explorer, which Microsoft says will make it easier for users to manage game installations and saved data.
Integration with Xbox 360's online facilities will soon grow to include cross-platform multiplayer titles, starting with Shadowrun and UNO, while other games like the PC Halo 2 will add Xbox 360's popular "achievements" system to existing titles, and allow users to view each other's online status and exchange messages irrespective of platform.
Meanwhile, "Games for Windows" branding will help create the impression of a unified software platform, helping to assuage consumer fears that PC software is a minefield of compatibility issues. Titles already signed up include this year's Age of Conan (due in October) and Supreme Commander, with some games already tied to it.
The operating system is available in four home versions, boasting an array of interface and security tools, priced between GBP 100 and 250 (EUR 150 and 380. In order to run the operating system, users will need an 800MHz processor, 512MB RAM and a 15GB hard disk as a minimum.
Microsoft has said it will continue to support Windows XP until 2011, but aims to convince users to switch by specifically binding advances like DirectX 10 to its new operating system.