A few months ago Microsoft mentioned that DirectX 10 would be a Vista exclusive, however I am thinking that might well change before DirectX 10 games are finally released. I am sorry, is he losing his marbles, you must be thinking? Isn't that one of the main selling points of Vista for gamers? Why would Microsoft ever contemplate releasing a version of DirectX 10 that also runs on Windows XP? Wouldn’t that negate the purpose of buying a copy of Vista for many users? Well, sales for Vista in the retail market aren’t exactly great to begin with, and that’s understandable, as there’s still quite a few things that need ironing out to satisfy the end-user aspiring to upgrade a perfectly working Windows XP PC.
But frankly upgrading an operating system just to be able to play a few games would be a bit much to swallow for most gamers, especially the budget conscious ones. That’s right, games aren’t exactly cheap either, but at least most gamers don’t have an issue with paying for those. Paying a minimum $200 price premium for a Vista upgrade is more than a bit over budget for most though. Especially if they’ve just bought that brand-new DirectX 10 graphics card after slaving away at the local 7-11 for months. Hence we won’t hold it against them if they’d rather opt to pirate a copy, and reinstall every 30-days to prevent having to buy a license. This doesn’t help Vista sales at all of course, and certainly is not how Microsoft envisioned the roll-out of Vista I’m sure.
The game developers will also get a say in this though, not just Microsoft, as they’d obviously rather sell millions of copies of their latest DirectX 10 game than just a mere few thousand. In order for a game developer to break even they need to be able to tap into a large established base of end-users that will be able to run their game. At this point in time the established base of Vista gamers is virtually non existent. Partly because Windows XP is still the preferred choice due to performance and compatibility issues with many games under Vista and partly because only DirectX 10 games would motivate gamers to update. Seems to me like we have a classic chicken and the egg situation here.
Well, here lies the crux of the matter. In order for Microsoft to sell more copies of Vista to gamers they need some leverage, for example an established base of popular games that will only run on Vista. However game developers will never agree to develop something that only runs on Vista, that would mean professional suicide, maybe if Microsoft brings a big bag of green to the negotiations they might, but not just because of DirectX 10 and Vista. It is all the more likely we’ll see a watered down version of DirectX 10 first that will offer basic DirectX 10 compatibility to Windows XP users with compatible DirectX 10 hardware. This will create the much needed established base of PC’s with DirectX 10 compatiblility hardware and then it is only a small step to convince the game developers to include a ‘ultimate’ setting in their DirectX 10 game that will unleash the full eye candy when run on Windows Vista. That seems a more likely scenario to me, rather than Microsoft betting all on one horse. But we’ll see, for the time being, don’t abandon Windows XP just yet, there’s plenty of excellent DirectX 9.0 games in the pipeline for this year.