Switching to Xbox as a PC gamer

I’ve been gaming on the PC since 2004, when I repeatedly played a demo scenario of Age of Empires: Rise of Rome off of a Windows 98 CD. My PC had a Pentium III with 64MB of RAM and a 1024x768 12" CRT display.

Age of Empires: Rise of Rome

Today my PC has an AMD Ryzen 3600, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 3060 GPU, hooked up to a 27" 4k display.

I disliked everything about consoles. PC gaming was superior to me. And then the Xbox Series X came out in 2020.

My issues with consoles

So what’s changed?

The hardware is good now. The Series X has an 8-core AMD Zen 2-based CPU with an integrated GPU equal to a Radeon RX 6800 or Nvidia GTX 3070, with 16GB of GDDR6 RAM. 4k at 60 FPS minimum is not a problem for the games I’ve been playing. NVME SSDs are standard. And Game Pass is a huge game changer, pardon the pun.

I’ve also changed. My executive function is much lower (more on that in the future), and I’m tired of the mounting frustrations of gaming on a PC these days. I recently had to wait 6 months on EVGA’s waitlist just to get a new GPU at MSRP. Most of the big publishers are trying to push their own launcher and game store through installations from other game stores.

GPU shortage 2020-?

And there’s technical issues too, such as each game running at below my display’s resolution and screwing up my window layout on first launch, plus the fiddling afterwards for the best balance between performance and fidelity. Screen tearing issues you have to hunt down and fix for specific games.

Allowing a multiplayer game through the Windows Firewall can sometimes crash the game due to the switch from fullscreen mode (yes, I know you can turn this annoying dialog off). Accepting permissions dialogs. Signing in with 3 different accounts to play one game (Steam/Game Pass, then whatever launcher the publisher is pushing, and sometimes the game account itself).

Windows Firewall dialog - this is from Windows 8 but it hasn't changed.

Windows updates break things sometimes. Games can hang and have to be manually killed in the Task Manager, if you can pull up the window on top of the frozen game, that is.

These were issues slowly adding up to it being more frustrating to play a game than it’s worth, and I stick to the same few games because I don’t want to set up another one.

Xbox is easy

I love how easy it is to launch a game, any game, on Xbox and get right into playing it. There’s no fiddling with graphics settings, most games have a simple toggle between fidelity and performance (60 FPS). Most run at 4k 60 FPS with no changes to that setting. And no screen tearing, which I remember being a problem on older consoles.

There’s also ray tracing, which is nice but not a big deal.

Thanks to the “Quick Resume” feature, which saves the state of the game in memory to disk, I don’t have to wait for loading screens most of the time.

Xbox Series X

It’s dead quiet compared to my noisy PC’s 4 case fans, which are the quiet Noctua brand.

Game Pass saves me money with the huge catalog of hundreds of games available, and also gives a slight discount on games that aren’t included.

The games I’ve been playing

Transit van with Prime livery in Forza Horizon 5

I’m digging the Horde mode in Gears 5, which is kind of like tower defense but in third person. Dead by Daylight is a great spin on the horror multiplayer genre. FH5 is a lot of fun to zoom around in. The Outer Worlds is an entertaining Skyrim-like set in space. I’m getting the hang of No Man’s Sky, which came out a long time ago but I avoided it due to the controversy at launch. My wife is annoyed with my frequent wins as Blue Beetle in Injustice 2.

Xbox Series X vs. PS5

Both consoles use the same hardware, with similar performance numbers. The Series X’s CPU runs at 3.8GHz, while the PS5 runs at 3.5GHz. The Series X delivers 12 teraflops and the PS5 is 10.something.

The PS5 controller’s haptics are cool, the triggers have variable tension that adjusts as you switch weapons or do other actions in a game.

The Xbox controller is like the ones that come with the 360 and Xbox One, with the addition of a share button and textured grips.

XBox Series and PS5 controllers

Both consoles have subscription services that allow you to play a large catalog of titles for a monthly fee, but Game Pass is killing it in this area.

With Game Pass Ultimate for $15/m, you get online multiplayer, hundreds of games to download or stream, games on EA Play, and access on the PC as well, including some PC exclusives such as the Age of Empires series.

Sony’s subscriptions are confusing and cost more if I’m reading this right: The first one, PS Plus, which comes with online multiplayer, a few games to keep every month, and store discounts, for $10/m. Then there’s PS Now, which is a huge streamable catalog of games going back to the PS2, also for $10/m. Apparently this one is accessible on PC as well through streaming.

Microsoft has an advantage over Sony with the All-Access deal, where you can get an Xbox Series X and 2 years of Game Pass Ultimate for $35/m.

For me, I was already taking advantage of Game Pass on PC to play Age of Empires and EA games that I wouldn’t have bought, and I prefer the way the Xbox controller fits my hand. I also prefer the boxy design of the Series X to the weird bulky design of the PS5.

Availability-wise, it’s still hard to find both consoles. The Xbox has an advantage due to the reserved inventory for the All-Access deal, so the scalpers aren’t able to get their hands on them as much. I was able to get my Xbox secured before Thanksgiving this year.

As for the Xbox Series X vs. the Series S, the Series X is 4 times as fast, comes with twice the storage, and handles 4k 60 FPS like a champ. I recommend going with the X over the S for futureproofing, especially since the trend with consoles is to stick with the same one for 4-5 years it seems.

Will I sell my PC?

I’m on the fence. I still play Eve Online a lot, and Age of Empires 4 came out recently, which I have been enjoying. I don’t play a lot of precision FPS games anymore but keyboard and mouse is still the best control method for those.

My PC during installation of my new GTX 3060

I would like to sell my PC and Mac Mini, then get an M1 MacBook Air for all my computing needs like Kev Quirk, but I wouldn’t be able to play Age of Empires or other PC exclusives in the future. Game streaming services aren’t there yet in my opinion, with services like GeForce Now requiring publishers to opt-in, and gold-standard ShadowPC is going through some stuff.

I’ve read rumors that Microsoft is going to jump in on the PC streaming game too, which would make sense as they already have Xbox game streaming.

When game streaming services get better, or as my PC gaming dwindles, I’ll make the call then.

Reviews I agree with

How the Xbox Series X (and xCloud) saved me from buying a gaming PC - PCWorld

Why I’m moving from PC after 15 years to Series X - Reddit