You know, the Xbox app for PC Game Pass on Windows 11 just got updated, and it's getting pretty good ...

 Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024.
Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024.

PC Game Pass is awesome, but the app that powers it has been ... less-than-awesome. But that's starting to change.

PC Game Pass (sold separately or part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) is a monthly subscription service that gives access to hundreds of great PC games. The service also includes all Microsoft-owned games from day one into the service, typically helping you avoid paying the standard $60+ dollar asking price for a full AAA game. In the future, Activision-Blizzard games will also start hitting PC Game Pass, starting with Diablo 4 later this month, with Call of Duty to follow.

Despite the quality of the service overall, and the value within Xbox Game Pass full games list, the Xbox app itself which serves the content has been controversial. I've written a few articles complaining about it in the past, but it is gradually improving.

As part of the Windows Gaming Insider Program on Windows 11, I noticed that the Xbox app got a fairly significant design update recently, making the visual language a bit more consistent, while improving some of the overall features and usability. The app certainly seems to be turning a corner.

A lot of consistency tweaks and improvements ...

Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024
Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024

Two of the main feature updates I've noticed are a new "recent" and "installed" filter on the left hand side, making it a little easier to sort your games library. It's not quite as robust as Steam's game list sidebar, but the fact there's a drop down menu there now means Microsoft could expand it to a variety of additional filters in the future.

I previously wrote about how Compact Mode on the Xbox app makes the usability with touch a little easier for devices like the ASUS ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go. It doesn't seem like there has been any further tweaks to Compact Mode as of writing, but there has been some improvements to the game page, as you can see above.

The design is a little bit more consistent across the app, but also there's a little more visibility for your friends who might've been playing the same game, complete with their display pictures and profile backgrounds. It's a nice touch, and gives the page a bit of flair. From here, you can easily access the game's files if you want to set up mods and tweaks, although there's no indication that the pain points with Windows installation integrity systems have been improved for people who use a lot of mods. Steam will probably remain your best option for mods and things of that nature, at least for now.

One thing that was interesting in this build was the inclusion of an "Extensions" section in the settings menu. I'm not sure I've seen this section before, and it says you can manage compatible Xbox app extensions there, yet I have none installed.

UPDATE (March 8, 2024): As pointed out by a reader, this section refers to games that have additional launchers, such as those offered by Ubisoft and EA. Seems that it could also expand to potentially when Diablo IV hits PC Game Pass later this month, but maybe there's more they could do here too?

... but still a long way to go.

Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024
Xbox app for Windows 11 in March, 2024

There's also been some improvements to the library section. The filters are a little easier to access, with filters that let you quickly find games you've purchased. However, it doesn't differentiate between games you've actually purchased, and games that you have purchase entitlement for via Game Pass, which makes the Game Pass filter a little redundant. It's easy to filter by games you have installed, but there's still a lot of improvements here I'd like to see.

The "play later" section feels a bit redundant to me, and it would be nice if we could hide it away, or customize rows of games to our own liking. It would make more sense for me to have a quick button filter for "Xbox Play Anywhere" for Xbox and PC gaming handheld users, instead of "Purchased" and "Game Pass" here. This section is obviously a library of content you have access to, so I'm not sure what the point of these buttons are.

Also, it's painful that we can't hide games that we own here like we can on Xbox. I really, really don't need to see the "Bleeding Edge Beta" in my PC library, given that the Beta client is absolutely never going to be used ever again. I'm also endlessly irritated that there are no cloud save indicators on the PC Game Pass app. If you shut down your PC too quickly, it can cause save file conflicts for Xbox Play Anywhere games if you frequently switch between devices. However, I have been told that a cloud save upload indicator feature is on the way for both Xbox and PC.

But that's the point here, the app is moving forward, gradually. Today's version of the Xbox app looks nicer, runs more efficiently, and is far more stable than its previous incarnations, and this latest design pass is a really encouraging sign.

But, the Xbox app for Windows 11 is moving in the right direction!

Xbox app for Windows 11
Xbox app for Windows 11

Our Top Gaming Recommendations

Best Xbox / PC headsets in 2024
Best upcoming Xbox games
Best Xbox controllers
Best Xbox accessories
Best gaming laptops in 2024

The Xbox app is far from "Steam," but I'd argue that it doesn't need trading card systems or forums and the like. Although the primary functionalities expected of a "PC gaming" experience should probably take priority.

There are a number of things that bug me about Microsoft's PC gaming push. Whether it's inconsistent versions across platforms, spotty developer support, or other types of usability complaints, the Xbox PC app still needs a lot of work. The "Microsoft Store" delivery systems could also use a TON of improvement. I'm not sure why I need to "accept app permissions" via pop-ups for these games, with an unnecessary email notification. If I'm downloading the game... surely I've already offered permission, right? As a Lenovo Legion Go user, I'd also like more visibility for games that do support cross-progression via Xbox Play Anywhere (as well as more support from developers, even if I have to buy the game twice!). But, I'm sure Microsoft has a very long list of feedback and complaints they want to address over time.

The most important thing is that the Xbox app for Windows 10 and 11 is moving in the right direction. It's become far more performant, far more usable, and generally more consistent as time has marched on. It remains to be seen what Microsoft will do with, often used for Blizzard games, for example — which they now own. The last time Activision tried to mess around with the app, it resulted in a huge community backlash owing to the legacy of one of the world's oldest multiplayer platforms. Microsoft will likely need to tread carefully here. I'm also curious to know what other features are on the horizon. Will we ever be able to stream PC games from the cloud like NVIDIA GeForce Now, for example?

In any case, the days of "Games for Windows Live" and "MSN GameZone" (wow, I'm old) are long behind us. PC Game Pass is one of Microsoft Gaming's fastest growing sections, and the value is truly undeniable.

(Oh, actually... MSN GameZone still exists, who knew?)