The Xbox Series X might be the most consumer-friendly console ever made. That may seem like a hyperbolic statement at first glance, especially if Microsoft announces a ludicrously high price in the coming days. But as it stands, all signs point to the Xbox Series X being a product that is seriously good value.
If you’re already part of the Xbox ecosystem, Microsoft is doing everything in its power to make sure you stay committed to team green. But there’s also some very compelling reasons that newcomers may not be aware of, which could sway their decision as to which console to buy. Let’s dive in.
Xbox first-party exclusives are included with Xbox Game Pass
Xbox One was rightly lambasted for its mediocre exclusives this generation, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had any standout titles. Some games have grown over time into successful franchises, like Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 4 is arguably one of the best driving games of this generation. But whether an exclusive does well or not is entirely subjective. What matters most is getting to play it and forming your own opinion (I personally enjoyed Crackdown 3, for example, which most people despised).
Thankfully, Microsoft gives Xbox Game Pass subscribers access to all its first-party titles as soon as they launch. That means instead of shelling out $60 for Halo Infinite, you’ll get Master Chief’s next outing as part of Xbox Game Pass on day one. You’ll also get every other first-party game that Microsoft releases, such as the inevitable Forza Horizon 5, Gears 6 and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2.
If you own a PS5, however, you’ll have to stump up full price to play the latest game from Sony’s worldwide studios – and when not every title is top-tier (yes, even Sony makes some duds), Microsoft’s approach seems extremely generous in comparison.
One of the worst aspects of the PS4 and Xbox One generation was the swarms of remasters, remakes and re-releases that developers rushed out to make to cash in on the lack of backwards-compatibility. This is unlikely to change on PS5 and Xbox Series X, but I’m personally tired of paying for slightly better looking games I already own.
Clearly, Microsoft understands this sentiment, as its backwards-compatibility program has been a breath of fresh air for the industry, which often feels like its sole focus is to squeeze you of every dime you have.
Xbox Series X will not only support hundreds of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games at launch, then, but it will also improve them substantially. Microsoft has already hinted at how games can benefit from the power of its new console by increasing the framerates and resolution of older titles, along with retroactively adding HDR. And we’ve already seen this on Xbox One X, where games like Red Dead Redemption and Final Fantasy XIII were boosted to 4K, making them look brand-new again.
Sony, on the other hand, hasn’t been as forthcoming when it comes to backwards-compatibility. We know that the majority of PS4 games will work on PS5, but we’re unlikely to see any support for PS1 and PS2 games other than via digital re-releases, and PS3 games will likely be reserved for streaming through PS Now, which isn’t a great experience. It’s clear which console will have the most games to play at launch, then.
You can use your existing Xbox One accessories
If, like me, you’ve collected half a dozen limited edition controllers, or spent a sizable chunk of change on the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, it’s nice to know that every single accessory for Xbox One will also work on Xbox Series X. This means you won’t need to shell out for another pad for the player two in your life, and if you’ve grown accustomed to the feel of the Xbox One controller, you don’t have to switch to the slightly refined Xbox Series X version if that’s what you prefer.
While we know the PS5 DualSense controller includes many of the same features of the DualShock 4, such as the touchpad, lightbar, speaker and headphone jack, it’s unclear as to whether Sony will let you use its older controllers and accessories in the same way on PlayStation 5. If it doesn’t, then all those spare controllers you own will be left to gather dust, and with the DualSense’s fancy features pointing to an expensive price tag, you’ll need to dip into your cash reserves if you’re after a second pad.
Xbox Smart Delivery gives you the best version of any game
With the next-gen consoles looming, buyers can sometimes find themselves in a tricky position: do I buy this game now, or wait for the fancier version to come out on the new consoles? Thanks to Xbox Smart Delivery, this common headache is now a thing of the past.
When you buy a supported game on Xbox One, you’ll automatically get it on Xbox Series X. That means if you buy Gears 5 today, or download it as part of Xbox Game Pass, it will be available on Xbox Series X if you purchase Microsoft’s new console. The same applies if you want to play an Xbox Series X game on your Xbox One. Bought Halo Infinite on Xbox Series X but want to play it on the Xbox One located in your bedroom? Xbox Smart Delivery will recognize this and deliver the correct version of the game so you can play Halo without getting out of bed.
Worryingly, we don’t know if this will be the case on PlayStation 5, at least it seems like it’s being left to developers to decide, more than anything. With Sony already stating that it’s designing games exclusively for PS5, it’s hard to see any PS5 titles being playable on the PS4, and although some games might get an upgrade to PS5, we already know that Microsoft has promised games like Destiny 2, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Gears 5 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will all support Xbox Smart Delivery.
Xbox Play Anywhere is a bonus for PC players
Xbox Play Anywhere has been around for a while now, but it’s criminally overlooked in terms of the value it provides. If you buy the digital version of a game that supports Xbox Play Anywhere, you’ll own it on both Xbox One and PC. Xbox Play Anywhere titles support cross-save, too, so you can carry your progress over to PC or console, depending on where you want to play.
You might not own a PC, or simply prefer to play on console – however, getting something for free is never a bad thing, and there are some notable titles that support the service such as Resident Evil 7 and Cuphead. Sony used to have a similar scheme with PlayStation Vita, but ever since it stopped supporting its now defunct handheld device, there’s nothing extra to be gained from buying a game digitally on Sony’s console.
Project XCloud could be a game-changer
Microsoft has promised to combine Project XCloud, it’s upcoming cloud streaming service, with Xbox Game Pass, which makes total sense. We don’t know if the new service will affect the price of a Game Pass subscription, but the prospect of playing games on any device through the power of the cloud gives players another way to enjoy Xbox games.
Sony was quick to the cloud gaming scene with PS Now, but the service has faced criticism for being overpriced and the overall experience being a shaky one. Sony has also been using the service to primarily stream PS3 games with mixed results. I’ve tried the Project XCloud beta myself and, despite the usual gripes that cloud gaming can bring such as visual artifacts and the odd stutter in connection quality, it’s left me considerably impressed.
Cloud gaming still isn’t ready for mass adoption, though (sorry, Stadia), and Microsoft is acutely aware of this. But being able to play when you’re in a pinch or can’t be bothered to fight over who gets the TV is an awesome option to have.