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With Windows Mixed Reality and Xbox Play Anywhere, do you really need a console?

October is usually one of the busiest months of the year for me. I'm only home a couple of days out of the month, and I don't get to spend nearly enough of that time relaxing with an Xbox controller in my hand. Things are different this time around though, because Cuphead is an Xbox Play Anywhere app. That means I can play a full Xbox One game on my Razer Blade while flying across the country, and I did. In fact, I've played this particular game exclusively on my laptop and it has been awesome.

So, remind me, why do I need an Xbox again?

Microsoft where you are, the best plan ever

I don't plan to strut around spouting nonsense about the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race anytime soon, because I know better. Don't tell anyone this, but the thing that makes the Xbox special is not the hardware. Xbox Live is the most successful online social and gaming platform to date, and it continues to grow for a good reason. Microsoft works hard to keep the system fresh with new features and it's ridiculously stable when compared to the competing service on the PlayStation.

That's why Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere plan is more than just porting games to the PC. It's an entire ecosystem play, one that is a familiar part of the Microsoft strategy now. You don't just get the game when you fire up Cuphead on the PC, you get the entire Xbox experience. I am signed in to Xbox Live, notified of incoming messages, and can see what all of my friends are doing as though I were on my Xbox. Of course, achievements are here as well, because it wouldn't be an Xbox game without them.

Microsoft's strategy to bring its entire ecosystem to where you are, even if that place isn't the thing it was originally intended, is fantastic. It's why there's a full Office suite on the iPad, and it makes a huge difference when it comes to how often I'm able to play games with my friends. It's also very early days right now, with precious few Xbox games actually wearing the Play Anywhere pin, but as a start it's more than a little impressive.

Adding in Mixed Reality

Sadly, it's going to be a little while before Windows Mixed Reality comes to the Xbox. Microsoft has said it is coming in the future, but probably not in the form we know it right now. There are likely several reasons for this, but the biggest reason according to Microsoft is a desire to have a Mixed Reality experience in the living room that isn't burdened by wires. It only takes getting your foot tangled in a cord while playing a VR game once to understand why this is a good thing, even if it means a considerable delay for Xbox VR.

Fortunately for PC owners, Windows Mixed Reality will soon be here and it's already shaping up to be a great experience. There's a healthy mix of games at launch with Steam VR games on the way as well, and if you have a laptop capable of powering the experience you can have portable VR in a way none of Microsoft's competitors can currently pull off. It may not be your default way to game for a while, but it's an incredibly compelling option to have.

But it's still a PC

I'm only able to consider this as a viable option for the future because Microsoft directly encouraged me to behave this way. And that is to Microsoft's credit, this is largely a good thing. It's not necessarily something I would recommend to everyone. Hardcore gamers are still going to find the most games on the actual Xbox for the foreseeable future, and maintaining a PC will always be more work than firing up an Xbox.

At the end of the day, however, this is an option well worth considering. If you already have your PC glued to you for most of the day, adding in a Bluetooth Xbox controller and installing your favorite games just makes sense. It's not hard to see people becoming so comfortable with this option that owning an Xbox becomes unnecessary. In a way, that's an exciting thing for Microsoft to have successfully pulled off.

Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything glowing or beeping. He's the Managing Editor of gaming content for Mobile Nations and can be found contributing to all of the Mobile Nations sites. Reach out on Twitter!

  • Honestly, you don't, even less today than back in the day. PC games are more console-like, there's a lot of console ports, you can use controllers and even game on big screens. Adding laptop portable gaming, to the mix only increases the convenience.
  • Console simply provides a unique experience where you arent tethered to a desk, keyboard and mouse. PC maintenance can be a bit much. I once spent 2hrs troubleshooting why raw data, htc vive, kept crashing. PC has so many knobs and buttons to push and turn. Again, just a different experience. I enjoyed several years of PC gaming starting with a Commodore 64 and then a Amiga 500, I swear during that time it couldnt get any better than this all the way up into PC gaming. But then I eventually went back to where it all begin, console gaming on a Magnavox Odyessy and now Xbox One.....
  • I don't want to spend much on a PC so console is my choice. If you have a different opinion and know better, please build me a PC that will play games like X1X in the same price range (I mean it)
  • To be honest there are still a lot of games the are exclusive to consoles and you can't play Xbox 360 and Original Xbox Games on a PC. Having said that I do like Play Anywhere.
  • When almost all games will be play anywhere we could consider to ditch the Xbox. And even with that, some games doesn't support cross play.
  • And how would backwards compatibility work?
  • They are not play anywhere or anything. I don't understand
  • Xbox One consoles are capable of playing 360 and Original Xbox games via backwards compatibility and that is only available on consoles.
  • Yeah that's sad they should add it to the pc as well.
  • That would be difficult as the 360 used a PowerPC CPU rather than an x86 CPU.
  • PC has too many variables (everyone has their own HW, driver, OS ver, user-installed-background-services, enhance-ware, etc combinations) to run BC right.
  • Almost all games will be play anywhere. No exclusives anymore.
  • Is destiny 2 play anywhere? Is the next battlefront or Battlefield 1 play anywhere? Well...
  • They all have PC and PS4 versions. There will still be PC and PS4 exclusives but not Xbox One exclusives. With Kinect gone, there is really thing unique about this family of Xbox consoles anymore.
  • Steam MAU 6 months ago was 12m (XPA was 1st introduced), 11m today. People have their reasons not to game on a PC.
    No Instant-On for example.
  • Good luck with that... Devs know...if they DONT do that, They can sell a copy for the Xbox AND the PC if a user wants it on both platforms. Or they can give a copy away.  Hmmm..... What makes more profit ? It's also why you see 10 games come out and 2-3 of them are play anywhere.
  • Well, the gaming market is split on the PC, Microsoft is TRYING (just like in windows phone very limited selection in Windows) but, Steam is the big one for PC games... Every PC gamer knows that. Microsoft is trying but, has a LONG way to go to even compete head to head with Steam for PC gaming.
  • And there are crazy people like my self that buy Xbox just to play halo, and ps to play GT...
  • Heh... I remember buying my first Console, the fat PlayStation 3, mainly because of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
    Same with the Xbox One a year after it's release when I bought it for Metal Gear Solid 5 Ground Zero and Tha Phantom Pain.
  • I think the question is very personal - someone might have just a buisness laptop, unsuitable for games, for example. Somebody else might want a box to play BR/DVD movies anyway. And not everyone are interested or even capable of using VR,MR,AR or however they call it. The most important thing here is that we have a choice and are not tied down to strictly one device or place for our entertainment. I'll personally stick with consoles for any forseeable future because I kind of like the idea of a separating my work and entertainment (and also I don't really see how buying a gaming PC or a gaming laptop would be sensible in my case), but again - it's just a preference. A choice. :)
  • I like Play Anywhere because it gives more value to digital games. I prefer physical but this implementation of digital purchasing feels like less of a waste of money to me because of the perks of moving between console and PC so I don't mind. However, consoles aren't going away any time soon. They are simple to p plug and play and if, like me, you bought a cheap off the shelf computer, upgrading that PC is a pain. It's not just a matter of getting a good GPU, you often have to replace a number of other parts and hope the case can fit them. It's a right pain in the butt and can get expensive quickly.
  • You do if you have a family.
  • Well, for those of us who are PC-only gamers, it's an easy answer.  At least, until Microsoft finally adds FULL support for keyboard, mouse and any other peripheral we currently can enjoy in PC gaming.  Also, for people like me who are VERY picky about the types of games we play--FPS and flight/space sim only--we typically already have all the hardware and features we need.  If VR actually becomes worthwhile (at the moment I find the devices too ugly, cumbersome and expensive) it looks like we'll be way ahead of Xbox support.  Clearly, the Xbox One X is an attempt to combat the hardware comparison, so gaming I'm sure will be good on it, as far as that goes.  But as long as there's no K/M support on the Xbox and Microsoft keeps expanding the Play Anywhere effort, there's really not much of a reason to get an Xbox.  Particularly since they destroyed almost all the OTHER reasons my family bought an Xbox in the first place--which was NOT for gaming.
  • I sit at a desk, use a keyboard/mouse to work on a computer all day, and have to deal with the constant issues that come up with PC's for myself and co-workers. I absolutely refuse to put up with that bull**** when I sit down in my recliner to game in the evening. I want a completely different experience from my work. And I refuse to sit at a desk and game on a tiny 32" monitor...I want to kick back in front of my 65" 4k tv.  For whatever reason, the writers of these articles never bring up that side of the discussion. And they never bring up the fact that hackers/cheaters on PC are far more rampant than on xbox. I am a casual gamer and I fully believe I represent a high majority of money spenders in the gaming industry who prefer the simplicity of gaming on console over the pita PC gaming. Tbh, with arrival of the Xbox one X, I can't think of a single good reason to switch to pc gaming.(except pc has a ton more mmorpgs to choose from...but even that is changing). That said, I'm happy for the increased Play Anywhere title and maybe someday I'll make use of that feature.
  • Well that kind of is what the article is saying...  You don't necessarily HAVE to put up with it.  I also work at a desk on a pc all day but if i have games on my laptop, it is quite easy to place it beside my large tv with, say, a bluetooth Xbox controller and hook that mess up with an HDMI and kick back in the recliner.  Virtually no different than an Xbox experience.  The one tiny wrench in the spoke is that I'd probably also have to have a wireless mouse nearby to plop on the arm rest for some initial navigation and then I'm good to go.  That being said, I too prefer the Xbox.  Really is hard to beat what you get with the package and simplicity of being able to control it all with your controller.
  • Need is a subjective term here. No one NEEDS anything when it comes to gaming, because gaming is not a need, it's a want. I own 2 PC's, soon to be 3, and 2 Xboxes, soon to be 3. They all get use (though one of the xboxes will likely be traded in for something when the one X gets here) for multiple things. There are times however, where I REALLY don't want to touch one of them. If I've had a particularly busy day at work, I might not want to touch a PC. There are also times where I'm not really in the mood for dealing with controllers. Alternatively, I may want to play a game and my wife is using the TV in the livingroom, so I have options there. Again it's not about need, it's about want.
  • I have always thought that this was done intentionally to pave the way for Nutella to kill off the Xbox division.
  • Exactly my thoughts when I saw the title of the article.
    Sooner or later, nobody will remember Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile, and the discussion here will be about how MS killed its Xbox business line, because Apple and Google (not even Nintendo or Sony) overtaken the stuff. Oh, and Jason Ward will write about how killing the Xbox is good for Microsoft's mobile strategy.
  • For me it's the simplicity of knowing that when I buy a console game I can start playing it at full quality right away. I don't have to wait for a patched graphic driver, game patches (most of the time), and I don't have to wonder if my graphics card can handle it. Consoles are also much cheaper than a good gaming rig. I just like the simplicity of console gaming, but I love having the option to play a console game on a computer when needed.
  • Play anywhere is a great example of UWP working
  • I know several PS4 owners who are starting to play Xbox exclusive games like Forza 7 on their PC. They have a fast enough PC so they don't see the need for an Xbox One.  This probably doesn't help Xbox One console sales figures...
  • What about having the best from both worlds? Like a... "Surface Play" device. Which could be a gaming laptop, with a modular detachable Xbox Controller.
    Although, the GPD concept is actually better in terms of portability, but playing 4k games on a 6" screen I don't think is good idea. And the GPD Win is definitely not good as a laptop.
  • Interesting question, probably Nadella's next effort will be the cancellation of the XBOX because (imaginary quote from MS fearless CEO):
    "There is no need for 3 console platforms, besides look at my iPhone, I have great games there, get an iPhone"
  • I like play anywhere, because it gives me a chance to play on my Xbox and my brother to play on his PC, so we both get what we want whilst buying one copy, my brother is a computer technician and so prefers to play on PC, but he was very impressed with the hardware they managed to fit inside the Xbox One X!!!! But my cousin makes use of play anywhere and even streaming the Xbox so he can play on PC whilst others watch TV!!!! Xbox did a very clever thing, listened to its customers I think and thought very much outside the Xbox!!!! 😛
  • I don’t but I have One. Gears is the main Microsoft game I play and they have done a great job of integrating crossplay on that so no need to for me. Killer Instinct will go to Steam, so there’s another game I play once in a while that is also going crossplay all the way.
  • The articles around here are becoming just as bad as Microsoft's Windows Phone support.  I game on a console so that I don't have to worry about what specs I need to run a game. Not everyone wants to shell out big bucks for a gaming laptop. I still play older PC games on my SP2, but the current titles I get on the Xbox.
  • For most people Yes, you do need an Xbox console over a PC. Games like Forza 7 for example would require a much more powerful PC to run it in its full capacity. To get even close to the Xbox One or X expirience, you will need to spend a good amount of money on a PC gaming rig caplable of matching the power of each of those consoles. These days you are looking at the range of $1000 Plus, depending on the quality your looking to play your games with in 1080p or 4K. PC games are quite demanding these days, you need to meet the minimun requirements, no everyone knows what that means.. For that, Don't expect to pay Less than $1000 on an off the shelf PC to play Forza 7. With all that being said, the Xbox One & X is the cheaper and powerful alternative to PC's. Not every console game will be a play anywhere game, you also have to look at what your getting on Xbox One or X, like - OG Xbox and 360 backwards compatibility games. Microsoft has yet to announce whether the PC will have that option. The console is plug and play. No need to fuss with drivers, no need to deal with glitches, bugs, or crashes no need to upgrade to allow the PC to play certain games. Also, your not tethered to a desk. I know that PC's are capable to plug to an HDTV these days, but I also know that the size of such PC's are pretty Large, uncluding gaming laptops. Consoles just plug in, fits and blend in with other livingroom entertainment equipment. So, I really don't think PC will over take consoles regarding games. I think that consoles are a simple way of just playing games and provides more than whats available on the PC. I also think that as consoles get more powerful, the PC will suffer unable to compete with pricing. I for one was thinking about building a new PC gaming rig, but the Xbox One X had me sold. $499 vs. $1000 plus is a no brainer. We will see how Xbox One X effects Gaming PC sales.
  • My #1 Wish.............. the option to change from xbox home to desktop. I would move my xbox s to my office and have the XBOX in the living room. I use my pc to play a few games but mostly entertainment... spotify, youtube, email, tv, etc. Just need that ui and speed.
  • Short answer ? Absolutely. Gaming on a PC of any kind just isn't for many of us. I want to sit down on my sofa with my 50" TV and pick up a controller with no fuss. I don't want to tether my PC to my TV every time I want to play. It's that simple. I can buy a One X for £450. Have the same power as a £1200 PC but without all the hassle that goes with PC gaming. All my media is through Xbox. Films, music, TV, all at the simple press of a remote control.   
  • Too many console exclusives. Not every game is available on PC or Xbox. Not every game is play anywhere (requiring you to buy 2 games if you want to play on both). The Xbox (even the Xbox on X) is $200 to $500. A mid to top end gaming machine you can add a 0 at the end of it... From $2000 to $5000. A consule plays great quality games and reasonably affordable, the PC is not (affordable or easy to plug and play in a lot of cases)
  • I'm glad both options are available. Considering what each can do now, its always good to have options
  • thing is in order to keep up you need to constantly upgrade the hardware. Even if you were to buy the top of the line game pc, after one year it will be obsolete in many cases. For the most part Xboxs are good for another 5 years, more if you were to purchase the new model. I think that if you have the money playing on the pc is more accessible anywhere but I would still prefer console. 
  • I am on a 5 year old gaming PC with a 3 year old GPU, it still rated very high for vr use, plays current games on high. Power requirements for gaming are not increasing as fast as they once did, people who update yearly are doing it as they want the lastest and greatest in most cases. If you count the slim there have been 3 Xbox's since november 2013. I wish that MS would allow the latest Xbox to run as a PC (ie.Windows), I suspect they would sell millions of them as they would be a cheap gaming PC or even office PC.