Back in 2016, Microsoft introduced the ‘Xbox Play Anywhere’ service. While the announcement was met with a lot of cheering, there were also a lot of snide remarks. Many folks were quick to insist that this announcement would be the death of the Xbox One since it lost its exclusive titles. As someone who’s been enjoying the Xbox Play Anywhere service for the past few months, I don’t really see how it’s a bad thing.
For those who don’t know, the XPA service is a feature that’s utilized by specific games. XPA titles can be played on both an Xbox One as well as a Windows 10 PC using the same Xbox Live account. Your data is stored in the cloud, allowing you to carry your experience across devices. For example, you can play a game at home on your Xbox One and then take that same game and start from where you left off on your laptop while you’re away from home.
Ever since the Xbox One launched back in 2013, I’ve been keeping an eye on it, but there hasn’t been much to sway me to make a purchase. I have nothing against the system itself, there’s just never been a huge incentive for me to actually purchase one. When I first laid eyes on Forza Horizon 3, I finally found that incentive—then Xbox Play Anywhere showed up.
I was blown away when Microsoft first announced the service back at E3 2016 and have been making use of over the past few months. My experience with XPA has consisted entirely of enjoying Forza Horizon 3 on my gaming laptop. I grabbed the game on sale earlier this year and still play it regularly to this day. While not as optimized as the Xbox One experience, the game still runs pretty well on my laptop. It’s really the first Xbox One title that I’ve ever had a true itch to grab. Now, I basically just proved the point of those who have spoken ill of Xbox Play Anywhere; the idea that it makes owning an Xbox One basically not necessary. Well, that’s not completely the case.
You can enjoy ‘Xbox Exclusive’ titles on Windows, but that doesn’t make the Xbox One unnecessary.
So as I just proved with Forza Horizon 3, it’s not exactly necessary to own an Xbox One to enjoy the ‘exclusive’ titles. With that said, some consider these games to not even be exclusive anymore since PC users can also play them. Here’s the thing, the situation depends on who you are.
While I’ve been able to enjoy Forza Horizon 3 on my gaming laptop, the same isn’t true for someone like my younger brother. He doesn’t own an Xbox One either, but he has done a lot of gaming on PC. Even so, his current system is not up to par with the requirements necessary to run a demanding title like Forza Horizon 3. It’s exactly this which makes Xbox Play Anywhere a great service, but not a total detriment to the Xbox One—it can be used by certain people.
Not every PC gamer out there has a rig powerful enough to play every single game that they want it to. Up until a year ago, I was in the same position that my younger brother is still in; gaming a lot on PC but only to a degree due to limited capabilities. My setup was a 2013 Dell business laptop—definitely not something built to play games on. It ran some titles, but they were all games from years ago. That’s why game consoles are such a beautiful thing.
Not everyone enjoys playing games on PC, so consoles will always have a role to fill.
An Xbox One gamer does not have to worry about the same thing that their PC brethren do. I mentioned earlier that Forza Horizon 3 is not a perfect experience on PC, but it runs silky smooth on Xbox One. That’s because the Xbox One is a console. As has always been the case, when developers build a game for a console they have a specific set of hardware to work with. They can plan out exactly how they want to use the power available and design their game to make efficient use of it. When dealing with PCs, there are thousands (if not millions) of different hardware configurations due to the sheer amount of different parts from all sorts of different manufacturers, all of which have different capabilities. You can have four computers in the same household and they can all be different, but thirty Xbox One consoles in the same neighborhood will be practically identical.
Xbox Play Anywhere benefits both PC and console fans. You have folks who prefer one side over the other, and that’s okay. That’s why Microsoft created this service; to tap into the crowd that plays pretty much exclusively on PC. Likewise, there are folks who choose to play exclusively on consoles. For that reason, the Xbox One still very much serves a purpose.
The last point I want to bring up is a matter of how this affects Microsoft’s profits. While they may be missing out on some hardware sales to due to PC gamers being able to buy the Xbox exclusive games, Microsoft is still making money from software sales. In order to play an Xbox Play Anywhere title, you need a Windows PC. Windows is another Microsoft product. Therefore, Microsoft doesn’t really lose much, if anything. These games are still exclusive as you still have to go through Microsoft to buy them, regardless of where you play.