Microsoft revealed on the official DirectX blog that Blizzard's World of Warcraft game is the first game to support DirectX 12 on Windows 7.
DirectX, a set of multimedia APIs used especially in PC games, is included natively in Windows. Microsoft releases new versions of DirectX regularly that introduce new features and improvements.
The company announced DirectX 12 in 2014 and launched it officially in Windows 10 in 2015. Microsoft decided to make DirectX 12 Windows 10 exclusive which meant that customers who ran Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 were limited to DirectX 11. This was not the first time that Microsoft decided to limit DirectX though.
When it released Windows Vista in 2006, it made DirectX 10 a Vista exclusive. The exclusivity backfired back then as the majority of game developers ignored DirectX 10 and focused on DirectX 9.0 instead which Windows XP supported as well.
According to Microsoft's blog post, it was Blizzard and other game companies that wanted to bring DirectX 12 support to their games on Windows 7. DirectX 12 offers advantages, such as low-level programing APIs or multi-GPU support, over previous versions of DirectX.
Microsoft ported the user mode Direct3D 12 runtime to Windows 7 in response so the request so that select games can use DirectX 12 on the operating system.
Today, with game patch 8.1.5 for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard becomes the first game developer to use DirectX 12 for Windows 7! Now, Windows 7 WoW gamers can run the game using DirectX 12 and enjoy a framerate boost [..]
Microsoft is "working with a few other game developers" currently according to the blog post. DirectX 12 won't become available universally on Windows 7, but only for select games according to Microsoft.
It is unclear if the games will use DirectX 12 on Windows 7 only, or if the games will also use it on Windows 8.1. The newer operating system, supported until 2023, is not mentioned once by Microsoft.
The announcement comes as a surprise for a number of reasons; probably the biggest is timing.
Windows 7 has a remaining lifetime of just 9 months before Microsoft ends support. Microsoft did not reveal why it caved in and ported DirectX 12 to Windows 7 for select games. Maybe because it was not all that much of an effort to do so, or because it expects that many customers will keep on running Windows 7 for some time after support ends.
A look back at the end of support for Windows XP suggests that history could repeat itself. It took years after support end before Windows XP usage numbers dropped significantly.
The move would make sense if Windows 8.1 gamers would benefit from DirectX 12 support as well but that is unclear at this point.
Another reason why the decision is surprising is that Microsoft does not back port features to older versions of Windows once it made the decision to limit them artificially to new versions of Windows.
The change may be beneficial to game developers who have a large enough base of users on Windows 7 as they may focus on the DirectX 12 version of the game and introduce performance improvements at the same time.
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