The Xbox Game Bar is one of those odd features that Microsoft added to Windows 10 to connect it to the Xbox, at least in branding and in some functionality. It supports a variety of functions and third-party apps but some of them require users to Alt+Tab away from their game. Now Microsoft is making a rather significant change to that workflow by introducing widgets that simply display on top of any screen, including your game.
PC gamers will be very familiar with the idea of overlays, especially on Steam or other game launchers that have their own implementation. The Xbox Game Bar’s advantage is that it is agnostic of any publisher or game launcher and that it comes pre-installed on all Windows 10 PCs. It also supports tools and functionality provided by the likes of Razer but those requiring switching between games and apps.
The upcoming widget system brings those same features and places them as overlays on top of games or even just the Windows 10 desktop. You can, for example, simply start streaming with XSplit Game Caster Widget or tweak your computer’s settings with Razer Cortex. There’s even an Intel Graphics Command Center widget if you swing that way.
These are just the initial selection of widgets but Microsoft envisions there will be more. In addition to providing a Game Bar SDK for developers, it is also putting up its own Widget Store where you can find and manage these overlays. And you won’t even have to leave your game just to go to that store.
The Xbox Game Bar is convenient but also one of the lesser-known and lesser-used gaming features of Windows 10, perhaps precisely because of that inconvenience. Microsoft hopes that this new widget system could lift its image among PC gamers not just as the maker of a PC OS but as a gaming platform in its own right.