Last week, Phil Spencer, the man in charge of Xbox decisions, announced that the computer giant would be taking strides to unify its flagship gaming console and its line of PCs and smartphones. The ultimate goal, said Spencer, was to blur the lines between Microsoft’s currently disparate platforms and allow greater communication between devices. Part of the plan, the company announced, was the dubious decision to allow for interchangeable hardware on Microsoft’s flagship console. Explained Spencer:
“We believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. We’ll see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allow the same games to run backwards and forward compatible because we have [Universal Windows Applications] running on top of [the Universal Windows Platform].”
When completed, the shift will be the culmination of a directive the company began last year when it touted gamers’ ability to play Xbox One games on any Windows 10 PC. Microsoft’s head honchos are increasingly set on making sure that Xbox games and PC games are virtually indistinguishable, but they’ve yet to ask gamers if that’s something we really want.
Here’s the thing, every five to seven years, every video game player in the world is confronted with a choice. They can either buy a PC and get access to pretty much every video game that has or will be made, just at a higher price point, or they can buy a console and be reasonably assured that their game box is going to work when the time comes.
While there are lots of PC gamers out there who claim that PC Gaming is the easier, cheaper alternative, even those people acknowledge that the initial buy-in for a PC gamer can be twice as expensive as an initial console purchase, and those components have an equivalent shelf-life to their console counterparts. Even still, while most hardware attached to a PC has a five-to-seven-year lifespan, the ROI on those parts diminishes significantly after the first year, since PC game graphics improve in leaps and bounds and require corresponding hardware to accommodate those improvements.
Gamers hoping to keep their PC running at top speeds and swallowing the freshest, most beautiful games will need to regularly update their hardware to stay ahead of the curve. Meanwhile, console gamers drop $500 bucks on a machine and they’re set for five years, knowing that every game that comes out will play more or less perfectly. Though, Spencer claims that, “the gamer is at the centre of every decision [Microsoft makes],” the announcement that our consoles may need more regular — and costly — upkeep is nothing short a bummer.