Xbox Windows app is still a mess

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I love the emphasis Xbox has had over the past few years. Xbox Game Pass is terrific value for most gamers; the Xbox Series S is a brilliant (and widely available) budget console; and Xbox’s commitment to accessibility has been very impressive, from hardware to first-party games.

But I can’t believe the Xbox app is still having major issues, five months after the launch of Windows 11 and nearly three years since the launch of Xbox Game Pass for PC. It doesn’t make sense that he’s as anti-user as he is. Seriously, I’ve used it on a few Windows PCs now, including my gaming PC (which runs Windows 10) and the Surface Laptop Studio I just reviewed (Windows 11), and on every device, it’s is a bit of a joke.

Even on a Microsoft-developed machine (the Surface), the app can’t run properly – it’s buggy, it’s slow, it has confusing discovery features, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. How did Microsoft pull this off? How is the Windows Xbox app so riddled with issues?

Let’s lighten up the context a bit.

The Xbox app as we know it was added to Windows PCs with Windows 10 in 2015 as an optional downloadable app. Before that time it was called Xbox SmartGlass and it didn’t really serve a big function.

When the Windows 10 version was released, it became a marketplace for PC games and LAN streaming from your Xbox One (the app was simply renamed Xbox). It was rocky, not so reliable, and certainly not worth gravitating to if you were already using Steam.

It wasn’t until Game Pass for PC (now known as PC Game Pass) was released in 2019, two years after Xbox Game Pass for Xbox consoles, that the Xbox PC app began to see widespread use. Fast forward to today, and it’s a widely used app among PC game storefronts, sitting alongside Steam, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, EA Desktop (formerly Origin), and Ubisoft Connect (formerly Uplay).

Quick tangent: Apps from EA and Ubisoft have been rebranded as part of a huge change to their PC storefront offering. EA Desktop is currently in beta, although it will eventually replace Origin entirely.

Why? Because these apps were known to be barely functional. I’m not trying to mince words or anything, but they were slow, unreliable, buggy, and completely lacked the easy user experience that Steam and Battle.net had. Not to ramble too long, but it seems hard to get it right. Bethesda is now removing its launcher, which is also a mess.

Back to the Xbox app (you’ll see why I took this tangent). We’re on the same beats now, with similar issues, except it makes faaar less sense that we have these problems this time around.

In my Surface Laptop Studio review, I noted that I used Cities: Skylines and Forza Horizon 5 to test machine performance. What I haven’t mentioned is what I had to go through to make them work.

After logging into the Xbox app on the surface and setting up games to download (along with a few others), downloads continued to fail. The error messages were vague with no decent way to really find a solution to my problem. I must have spent hours trying to solve this problem, searching Google for solutions.

Then somehow I came across the weirdest solution – installing a VPN and turning on the VPN while trying to install a game through the Xbox app. I downloaded Proton VPN and gave it a try.

It worked. Oh my god, why did it work?

How does the Xbox application on a Windows operating system on a PC developed by Microsoft need a VPN to perform its most essential function?

If anyone has a good explanation for why this worked, I’m all ears. As you might expect, the Microsoft and Xbox forums – filled with brand ambassadors advising you to do so much as turn it off and on again or reinstall the app – didn’t really have any solid explanations. to that.

But man, that’s not the only problem. On my Windows 10 gaming PC, I often try to download or update a game and it will take several minutes before it starts or just doesn’t start at all. No message as to why either. One of my solutions (apart from the PC boot cycle) was to install the app through the Windows Store. Unfortunately, you can do this on Windows 10 but not on Windows 11.

To add to the frustration, Xbox apps on PC are currently located in a part of the computer inaccessible to the user. Why? I don’t know, ask Microsoft. Insiders currently have access to change file paths.

Besides, it’s just a really bad user experience. The app is often difficult to navigate, search features are slow, and often, in my experience, you have to end the app process to get it to work. Sometimes just starting a game won’t even work and you’ll have to restart the machine to convince it to load.

I expect Microsoft to fix these issues at some point. With Game Pass growing in popularity and value, this launcher needs to play better.

But seriously, this article is for all Xbox PC app users who had to find errors just to play their game of choice. I feel your pain.

Go to Xbox, your Windows app shouldn’t have these issues.


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