Downloading a game from online storefronts like Steam or the Xbox Live Marketplace is the modern equivalent of waiting for your modem to connect to the internet circa 1998: They’re both long, arduous processes that we all know can happen much faster than they do.
The good news is that just like broadband killed dial-up, Microsoft has introduced a new feature called FastStart that will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to start a new digital game you’ve just bought.
Announced at E3 2018, FastStart is part of Microsoft’s July platform update that brings a number of small - but impactful - updates to the console. While some of these other updates are worth noting (pulling up a search bar from anywhere on the UI should be pretty nifty) the biggest update is FastStart.
According to Microsoft, games that utilize the feature will half the amount of time it takes from when a download begins to the moment you’re actually able to play it. You won't have to do anything extra to make it work besides updating to the latest version of the Xbox software.
Less waiting, more gaming
So how exactly does it work? FastStart-enabled games prioritize the most important parts of the game first, saving the rest of the data to download in the background while you’re playing the first few minutes of the game. You'll still need to download the entire game, obviously, but this will reduce the amount of time you're just sitting around watching a download bar inch forward.
The two big caveats here, though, are that games need to be FastStart-enabled by Microsoft and you'll need a download speed of around 20Mbps.
It's also possible that if your connection slows down while FastStart is still downloading a game in the background, you'll need to wait for the download speed to pick back up before you can continue playing.
Microsoft says a number of games available on its Xbox Games Pass program will be available to download using FastStart starting today and more games will follow suit sometime down the road - no extra developer work required.