Microsoft has really stepped up its gaming, er, game in recent years. It went from being the company that awkwardly released Halo 5 on the middling Xbox One to the winner putting Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and other all-stars on Game Pass and PC day one. It has proven it understands gaming, so much so that it has done its darndest to deter me from ever bothering with an Xbox Series X or Xbox console in general. And it has succeeded! I haven't bought an Xbox since the 360 days, and if Microsoft keeps crushing it, I'll never have to.
Between Game Pass, the Xbox brand's newfound love for PCs, and Microsoft's massive investments in titans such as Activision Blizzard, the company knows how to meet gamers where they are. If that means never investing in a console again, so be it. Xbox's console loss is Windows 11's gain.
The golden era of Xbox
There was a time when owning an Xbox was a good value proposition for gaming. That time was the 360 era. Games were still ambitious, experimental, and worth their console-tier price tags, devoid of Steam sales or deep discounts. We had bangers like Vanquish, Bayonetta, Dishonored, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And best of all, we had Kinect, otherwise known as completely optional but absolutely delightful innovation from the same mind that brought the world HoloLens.
Many of those great games were console exclusive or better optimized for consoles. Microsoft's wild motion sensor gave people a unique reason to invest in Xbox hardware as opposed to a gaming PC. And barring the egregious $60 per year online paywall Microsoft instituted via Xbox Live Gold, the overall value of the system was still pretty aggressive compared to what PCs could manage at the time.
The copper era of Xbox
Things got real dark for a bit with Xbox when the Xbox One put the 360 out to pasture. Between the mandatory Kinect inclusion jacking up the console's price, Don Mattrick tarnishing the brand right as the One was debuting, the always-online requirements, Microsoft's (at the time) anti-used-game philosophy, and the fact the box itself looked like a fat VHS player, the thing was just a misfire on all fronts out of the gate.
It was at this point PC gaming started to look pretty cool to a lot of people. No Xbox Live Gold tax, no wasting money on hardware additions you didn't want, there were insane Steam sales to counter the no-used-games nature of the PC platform, and most all of the arbitrary limitations of the Xbox were absent.
As we all know now, Phil Spencer and co. quickly turned the ship around and helped save the Xbox One from being an unmitigated disaster. The greedy used game policy got reversed and was never brought up again, for starters. The same cycle happened for the One's online requirements and Microsoft's obsession with Kinect.
But by that point, many people had already chosen PC gaming or PlayStation as their generational investment. So when Game Pass came along and reaffirmed that those on PC would never have a real reason to buy an Xbox again, the question was: Why would someone forsake their massive Steam library, free online play, better discounts, and superior hardware to go back to the Xbox experience if it was already coming to them?
The platinum era of Xbox
That brings us to today. Every major Xbox exclusive comes to PC and Game Pass provides unprecedented value, making it even easier to justify foregoing an Xbox Series X for those who have already invested in their PCs. One could argue the upfront cost is cheaper, but when you factor in your Ultimate or Gold sub, as well as the inflated costs of console games, you're still losing long-term on the value front — unless you're a diehard value seeker who plays exclusively through Game Pass.
And Microsoft knows this. It fully recognizes its Xboxes are no longer a selling point in and of themselves; they're simply a vessel for the best Game Pass games and the overall Xbox ecosystem. That's why PC gamers are now considered first-class citizens. Thus, we've entered the platinum era of Xbox, where the best platform gets virtually all the benefits of its console counterpart.
So, just as Microsoft wants, it will keep me in its PC enclosure, knowing full well it probably never would've convinced me to go back to a physical Xbox anyway. This way, it at least manages to make some money off me rather than none. Well, except for the bit where I pay for Game Pass exclusively through Microsoft Rewards and don't actually pay a penny.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to email@example.com.