Microsoft hasn't given up on rolling out new ways to lure in gamers to give the Xbox brand a try. In fact, they're upgrading the console's audio performance in order to allow it to take a huge step forward when it comes to quality output.
The news came from a post over on the official Xbox Wire by the director of gaming at Dolby Laboratories, Spencer Hooks. The post explains that the Dolby Atmos 3D positional soundscape will be coming to the Xbox home consoles and Windows 10 PCs next year in 2017.
The new feature will be compatible with games and apps through both hardware and software compatibility. If you have a Dolby Atmos-enabled surround system home theater system, you can enable the Atmos settings within your options menu and take advantage of the features. Even if you don't have an Atmos-enabled home theater system for your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC, you can still experience some of the high-tech features with your games and apps by enabling the virtual 3D positional sound feature.
As explained in the post by Spencer Hooks, this will allow gamers to hear more and experience more from their games including being able to hear attacks coming from all manner of different directions. He uses Overwatch in the example and explains how the positional sounds can allow users to find out where certain attacks are coming from, or hear snipers moving overhead, or enemies attempting to reach you from below.
This kind of feature has been present in some games in the past that supported 3D audio, allowing gamers to listen closer to hear where enemies were coming from. This was especially useful during the boon of the free-to-play MOFPS games that flooded the market during the mid and late aughts. Games such as Combat Arms, Operation 7, Crossfire and Sudden Attack allowed users to listen closely to their environment and follow the direction of footsteps, shell casings being dropped or binaural gunfire so you could tell when someone was firing from a floor above, a floor below, from behind a certain kind of wall, or whether they were outdoors or indoors.
It's nice to see Microsoft putting some effort into this feature, given that a lot of times the marketing and prominence of 3D positional sound is oftentimes underplayed for a lot of competitive games, but it's an extremely important feature.
For gamers who have a Dolby Atmos home theater this will allow them to take full advantage of the feature and really use it to their advantage in games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2 or Battlefield 1.
Then again, it's not something that can completely be used exclusively on shooter titles. It's something that could also help you with taking the pole position in games like Project CARS or Forza Motorsport, as you use the sounds of the engines and tires burning across the pavement to determine how close or how far away your opponents are from you.
The Dolby Atmos will also be used in conjunction with the Blu-ray pass-through for Xbox preview members who have a standard Xbox One or Xbox One S. This upgrade will work with native Blu-ray media output from the Xbox One and Xbox One S or for systems passing through audio receivers, so the sound quality will be "untouched" as it comes out of the audio system.