Talk about sending mixed messages. Microsoft has recently reminded its customers that Windows 7 support is ending next year and is going to start nagging them to upgrade to Windows 10. At GDC 2019, however, it is seemingly giving gamers a reason not to upgrade yet. It boasts that it has just made a critical part of DirectX 12 available on a version of an operating system it will soon abandon, all for the sake of courting Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft players.
To be clear, Microsoft isn’t saying it has made DirectX 12 available wholesale on Windows 7. It specifically talked about the Direct3D part of DirectX 12, the part involved in 3D graphics for games and applications. And specifically, it has ported the user mode D3D12 runtime only, so it’s not like developers will have access to the whole DirectX 12 SDK on Windows 7.
So why go through all the trouble? DirectX 12 brings multi-threading features that, for WoW developer Blizzard, brought world-changing performance improvements on Windows 10 where DX12 is officially available. Blizzard wanted to offer the same smooth framerate experience to its remaining Windows 7 users and Microsoft was surprisingly happy to oblige.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, starting with patch 8.1.5, will be using DirectX 12 even on Windows 7. And it’s just the first one, says Microsoft. There will be others that will follow suit, or so it hopes.
Microsoft, however, does insist that Windows 10 still offers the best experience since it has OS-level optimizations to make DirectX 12 fly. Still, if you’re going to live on Windows 7 forever, at least you can enjoy a faster WoW now. Curiously, Microsoft isn’t giving Windows 8 and 8.1 the same treatment.