Microsoft announced that starting today, Windows games can begin shipping with DirectStorage API support. This API first appeared on the Xbox Series X|S and allows games to load much faster by taking advantage of the full speed of modern NVMe SSDs. Microsoft announced it for Windows in September 2020, but only now is it widely available to developers.
If you’re wondering why DirectStorage is important, here’s a quick explanation: Previous APIs only allowed games to load assets from the drive one I/O request at a time, and each request had to be completely completed before that another can be treated. . This resulted in only a minimal increase in overhead for each request, and since mechanical HDDs and SATA SSDs weren’t that fast, the impact on load times wasn’t that great.
Now, however, with fast NVMe drives capable of multi-gigabyte read speeds, this process means that it’s nearly impossible to use all of the drive’s bandwidth while servicing only one request at a time, which which means that games load much slower than they should. Additionally, these resources are usually compressed and must be uncompressed before they can be loaded into the game.
DirectStorage solves all of this by allowing multiple I/O requests at once, taking advantage of new decompression technologies, and feeding GPU resources more efficiently. By changing all of this, games can load much faster when using DirectStorage, and in addition, they can start using much more resources, because developers can be assured that they will load much faster and not won’t keep the player waiting. Ultimately, this translates to shortened load times and, as developers get used to having that headroom, more detailed textures in games.
This advantage, however, is more favorable to NVMe SSDs, and it is because of the unique interface they use, consisting of multiple queues for data access, which makes it easier for games to request data. access multiple assets at the same time without having to wait for a previous request to complete. Windows 11 users will also benefit the most, thanks to a new storage stack. Windows 10 users will also see improvements.
Microsoft hasn’t mentioned any games that will use the technology at this time, but you can probably assume that any titles taking advantage of DirectStorage on Xbox will also use it on Windows. However, you’ll have to wait for individual developers to implement it in every game, as it’s not a switch that Microsoft can flip.