The last few updates to Microsoft’s DirectX platform have come with the requirement that you get new hardware to enjoy the benefits, but that’s not going to be the case with DirectX 12. According to Microsoft, DirectX 12 will work with most existing gaming hardware, at least for the most part. Some DX12 features will still need updated GPUs, but all the basic features should work.
Microsoft announced DirectX 12 last year at GDC, and it’s still not fully baked yet. Because it’s not technically done yet, Microsoft has been cautious about explaining exactly what will and won’t work on current GPUs. What we do know is that the basic feature set will work on all Intel fourth-gen and newer Core processors, as well as AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. On the Nvidia side, DirectX 12 will support Maxwell, Kepler, and even Fermi. Basically, a DX 11.1 card will be compatible with most of the new APIs. Note, Maxwell is actually the first GPU with full DX12 support, although DX12 graphics are currently only making appearances in demos.
That makes some sense when you look at what DirectX 12 is designed to do. While past updates to DirectX have focused on new rendering effects like tessellation and more realistic shaders, DirectX 12 is an attempt to dramatically reduce driver overhead and get PC gaming closer to console levels of efficiency by learning some lessons from AMD’s Mantle API. Consoles have very narrow hardware profiles, but the hardware abstraction layer in DirectX slows things down.