Can a gaming PC replace an Xbox?


Shawn Farner

Writer and Storywriter


I’m a big believer in minimalism: that is, I try not to have a lot of stuff. What I do have, I really want to get as much out of as possible. I want items that are versatile and can do many jobs. I don’t want things that I don’t truly need. This is why, for the past few months, I’ve really wrestled with owning an Xbox Series X while I have a supremely capable laptop that, in many cases, can do more games at 1080p/60fps and even 4K/60fps than the Xbox can.

Can a gaming PC replace an Xbox?

As I’m wont to do, I decided to make a list of pros and cons for removing the Xbox from the equation. What would I gain by moving all of my Xbox gaming to PC? What would I be missing out on? And can a gaming PC replace an Xbox in the ways that matter?

Here’s what I came up with.

Pro: A cheaper tier of Xbox Game Pass

At the moment, I pay $14.99 per month for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The reason I subscribe at this tier is simple: I want Game Pass, and I also need Xbox Live. This combines the two, while also giving me some added perks (like Game Pass on PC and Xbox Cloud Gaming).

By moving to a PC-only arrangement, however, I’d no longer have any need for Xbox Live. It isn’t required for online gaming on that platform. There would no longer be an Xbox in my setup, so I wouldn’t need the $14.99 per month bundle giving me Game Pass on both, either. And because I’d be moving my Xbox gaming to a gaming laptop, I’d likely get by just fine without Cloud Gaming. If I travel, my laptop comes with me. That negates the need to stream anything remotely (and is probably a better gaming experience anyway).

Con: TV gaming isn’t quite as simple

There’s something quite nice about coming home, plopping down on the couch, and firing up an Xbox to play some games. The whole user interface is built to be navigated using a controller. Everything you need is just a few button presses away, without the need to use other inputs (like a keyboard and mouse) to get everything situated before you start playing.

That would definitely be lost with a move to a gaming PC.

There are ways to play PC games on a TV, for sure. In fact, I could simply “dock” my laptop there using an HDMI cable and an Xbox Wireless Adapter, and once a game is running, have a nearly identical experience as I would playing a title on an Xbox. But there’d be a good bit of setup required each time I started the game. I’d need to get into the game, and because you can’t get around Windows with a gamepad, I’d need at least a mouse in close proximity. I’d also need to change graphics settings to account for a 4K TV versus the 1080p laptop display, which would eat into my gaming time.

It’s safe to say the “lean-back” type of gaming I do to unwind might be a tad bit more difficult on PC versus console.

Pro: Better performance in older games

Last week, I fired up Forza Horizon 3 for the first time in a while, and discovered it ran at a gorgeous and smooth 4K, 60 FPS. The rub: I had launched the game on PC and not console. The Xbox version of that particular title is locked at 30 FPS. Because FH3 is now delisted, that’ll likely be the case until the end of time.

Sure, the Xbox Series X/S consoles have FPS Boost now. But PC, by way of most titles having unlocked frame rates right from the get-go, can just do it without a special feature being necessary. If you can think of a game that is locked at 30 FPS on console, chances are, it can run at whatever frame rate your hardware can push it to on PC. If you’re all about performance, this may be as good a reason as any to use a gaming PC to replace an Xbox.

Con: There are games I wouldn’t be able to play with Xbox friends

A bunch of games have finally jumped on cross-platform play, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Fortnite really got the train rolling. But now Rocket League has it. Call of Duty has it. Destiny 2 will get it come August (if the current timeline holds). For many big multiplayer games, it won’t matter what platform you’re playing on, because you’ll still be able to play with friends.

Sadly, though, you won’t find crossplay in every release out there. So if some new hot game comes along that some of my Xbox friends are playing, and crossplay isn’t part of the deal, I won’t be able to join in with them. I’ll likely be stuck with PC players only. Huge bummer.

Pro: Cheaper games

I can’t tell you how much it pains me to open every day and see the prices for PC games. They are so much lower than console! Because I have an Xbox Series X, however, I’ve always felt like I need to purchase games for that particular platform. Why? Mostly because I need to justify its existence.

I could save myself a lot of money by not trying to convince myself I need an Xbox.

Con: I’ll have to stop caring about Xbox Achievements

One thing I really enjoy doing is Achievement hunting. And part of the reason I’ve been so hooked into the Xbox ecosystem is because I have a career of Achievements spanning all the way back to the dawn of the Xbox 360 era, which is when they first came into being.

By keeping myself strictly to PC, I’d have to learn to let that go in many cases. Sure, some Xbox Play Anywhere games have them, as do some titles sold in the Microsoft Store. But many other titles are availably only through the launchers built by certain third-party publishers. These will not have Xbox Achievements.

Conclusion: I’m pretty undecided at the moment

While it would be great to downsize my gaming setup a good bit, and get back to the minimalism that brings me peace, I’m still not sure whether shifting away from an Xbox console is the right move or not. I still have the rest of Mass Effect Legendary Edition to play through, at least, so I’ll likely be thinking on it a lot while I wrap up that recently purchased game.

Regardless of where I land, I think one can use a gaming PC to replace an Xbox. It’ll just come down to how you feel about what you’d be gaining versus what you’d be losing. If you’re less attached to one or two unique aspects of Xbox gaming, for example, you may find the switch rather easy. For me: I’m going to need more time to contemplate.

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