Something to look forward to: Now that the hardware specifications of both major next-gen consoles have been revealed, Microsoft is taking the next step forward by announcing DirectX 12 Ultimate. In addition to adding a few improvements of its own, DirectX 12 Ultimate will attempt to bridge the gap between the Xbox Series X and PC gaming experiences when it launches later this year.
According to Microsoft, DirectX 12 Ultimate hardware, whether it comes in the form of a standalone PC video card or an onboard Xbox Series X GPU, is "guaranteed" to support all next-gen graphics features such as DXR 1.1, Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shaders, and Sampler Feedback (more details on each of these additions can be found here).
So, that's the future-proofing part of Microsoft's announcement out of the way -- consumers won't have to worry about their DX12 Ultimate hardware becoming outdated (in terms of features; performance is another beast) anytime soon. What about unifying the Xbox and PC ecosystems, though? What does that mean, exactly?
That's where developers come in. Microsoft says DX12 Ultimate will give devs the tools they need to develop great visual experiences for both the Xbox Series X and PC with more ease than before. Ultimate brings all of DX12's upcoming features together in "one common bundle," allowing for more seamless cross-platform content creation. If a graphical leap forward happens on the Xbox Series X, it's likely to make its way to PC fairly quickly, and vice versa.
Microsoft breaks it down as follows:
By unifying the graphics platform across PC and Xbox Series X, DX12 Ultimate serves as a force multiplier for the entire gaming ecosystem. No longer do the cycles operate independently! Instead, they now combine synergistically: when Xbox Series X releases, there will already be many millions of DX12 Ultimate PC graphics cards in the world with the same feature set, catalyzing a rapid adoption of new features, and when Xbox Series X brings a wave of new console gamers, PC will likewise benefit from this vast surge of new DX12 Ultimate capable hardware!
The result? An adrenaline shot to new feature adoption, groundbreaking graphics in the hands of gamers more quickly than ever before!
Whether or not DX12 Ultimate will truly spell the end of the PC's inherent graphical feature superiority remains to be seen. High-end desktops will probably always have the edge over their console counterparts where pure graphical fidelity is concerned, but maybe we'll start to see fewer platform-specific visual features as Microsoft continues to push for parity between its two customer bases.