Microsoft's Xbox app on PC hasn’t given me the best PC gaming experience, to the extent that I’ve uninstalled it multiple times from my desktop PC. So it‘s music to my ears that Microsoft is making the whole experience of using Xbox Game Pass for PC a lot more like Steam, Valve’s platform that’s basically a cornerstone of any gaming PC.
Microsoft announced it has a new Windows version of the Xbox app for Xbox Insiders that allows better access and control over where games are installed and deeper mod support. About. Damn. Time.
This might seem like a trivial update to stoke my PC gaming fire, but for me it’s significant.
Last year, thanks to the cross platform clout of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a friend and I decided to play our way through Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC. For the most part, it was a joy, thanks to the precision of mouse and keyboard control.
But then Microsoft decided to roll out an update. And something went wrong. I don’t know if it was my PC or my shoddy internet connection or some quirk with the Xbox app, but an update refused to download at a feasible speed for its large size. I was getting mere kilobytes-per-second download speeds. I had heard this was a problem on Microsoft's side, but in my frustration I uninstalled Halo; my plan was to download the updated game in full on another machine through a faster connection and then transfer the game install over.
Annoyingly, I did all this without realizing that I could get access to the folder where games that use the Xbox app are installed. Eventually, I ended up playing the rest of the Master Chief Collection on my Xbox Series X.
Not that I was done with Xbox app frustrations. I’ve run into failed downloads and updates seemingly not working.
And now as I write this, the Xbox app is insisting I install another software component to get the Xbox app working properly, but for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, the Xbox app gets stuck on saying it’s installing “Game Services.” I can't even seem to run an already installed game; I’m not a violent man but the frustration the Xbox app has caused makes me want to hurl my PC out of a window.
This could all be an issue on my side, but after a quick look on various support forums it doesn't appear I’m alone in having Xbox app issues, most notably around installation.
A lot of this trouble could be solved if the Xbox app allowed me to simply copy over a games apps folder like Steam does; if I’m copying game data from an external SSD on to my PC all I need to do is put it in the common Steam apps folder then tell Steam to install it. Steam will have the smarts to detect that the data is on my PC and not bother trying to download it; the same can’t be said for the Xbox app.
So I’m hoping that this update for Xbox Insiders bears fruit and comes to the full release of the Xbox app, as I’d love to play more Game Pass games on my PC without wrangling with the irritating and, in my experience, unfriendly nature of the Xbox app and Microsoft Store.