Until fairly recently, purchasing choices for me were pretty simple when it came to games. Before I built my gaming PC I would get everything on Xbox One, usually digitally so I didn't have to wait for the inevitably late Amazon delivery (although I did make an exception if I knew it might be something I'd want to sell once I was finished like Dead Rising 4). Once the PC came along, I switched almost wholesale to that and bought everything on Steam; the only holdouts on my Xbox One were LEGO Dimensions and Titanfall 2.
This started to get a little bit more complex when the Xbox One S arrived as then I had the choice between low-quality low-framerate but HDR upscaled on a 4K screen or high-quality high-framerate non-HDR on an ultrawide 3440x1440 monitor. Fortunately the only game that really tested this was Forza Horizon 3 and, thanks to Play Anywhere, I was able to pick and choose between the gaming PC and the Xbox One S at any point as the saves were synced and you got both copies for the single digital price; it turned out I generally preferred the HDR version, especially for the Blizzard Mountain DLC, although it always took 5-10 minutes for my eyes to get over the 30fps judder.
Once the Switch arrived in March, life was made more difficult still as there were a number of games that I'd have to choose between getting for PC, Xbox One, or Switch. A good example of this dilemma is Sonic Mania and can be looked at like this:
- PC - 100fps, ultrawide monitor, Steam achievements, sit at desk
- Xbox One S - 60fps, 1080p, achievements, sit in living room
- Switch - 60fps, 1080p, no achievements, sit anywhere
In the end, I bought it on the Switch although in part that was because it was the first platform to get it with a midnight launch; the Xbox One version didn't land until 16 hours later and the PC version was delayed by 2 weeks. This would have been a ridiculously easy choice if the Switch had an achievements system but the fact that it doesn't means I generally still want to buy games on another platform if they are available. I haven't found this too much of a problem yet as most games launch on Switch some time after PC (i.e. Hollow Knight, Yooka-Laylee, etc) but once release dates equal out as they are starting to it does become a real balance between portability and achievements.
The reason I mention all of this is that things are just about to become harder still thanks to the introduction of the Xbox One X which I pre-ordered last night. When it was first announced, I said to my CTH co-host John¹:
"I doubt I'll get one as there isn't anything coming to it which is exclusive to Xbox One in 4K (i.e. even their mega exclusives like Forza 7 are on Windows 10 as well). I guess I'd replace the Xbox One S with one next year maybe when it has come down in price a bit but £500 is a bit more than I'm willing to pay when I already have the PC - I'd rather put that money towards a Titan X or something"
It turns out I was wrong. Now that the Xbox One is able to render games at 4K with HDR rather than just 1080p with HDR it is becoming incredibly difficult for me to choose between the PC or the Xbox due to the 3rd party titles that are supporting it. For example, here are a few of the 100 upcoming games that are all confirmed to have Xbox One X support (in contrast to the minuscule list of titles that supported HDR on Xbox One S):
- Assassin's Creed: Origins
- Far Cry 5
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War
- Star Wars II Battlefront
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
For every one of these games, I think my new default is to choose the Xbox One X. Sure the textures won't be as nice as those on my GTX 1080 but the convenience of the sofa combined with a 4K resolution and HDR means I'll gladly take the FPS hit. Add to that a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 which doesn't have a PC version (yet) and the 4K offering seems too good to pass up on.
I think the only thing that will change that now is the inevitable GTX 1180 coupled with an (as yet not a reality) ultrawide monitor sporting a resolution of 5160x2160px and HDR. It would also be nice if NVIDIA GameStream was more reliable as the number of times I've tried to do PC gaming in the living room has decreased the more frustrated I get with its connection issues and dropouts.
For now though I'm shifting my pre-orders to the Xbox One X, renewing my Xbox Live Gold membership, and getting ready to game in the living room again.