You don't need to buy an Xbox Series X — and Microsoft is fine with that

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Xbox)

While I'm not buying to purchase a next-gen console just yet, I'll probably want a PS5 or an Xbox Series X sooner or later. And, having seen Microsoft's July 23 event with its plethora of promising games, I now know which console I'll want to buy — and it's not the Xbox Series X.

It's not because Microsoft didn't show off any good games. On the contrary — I'm extremely excited about Avowed, Obsidian's gorgeous new RPG, and Psychonauts 2 looks delightfully weird. I go back and forth on the Halo and Fable franchises, but both new installments look promising, and I could see myself picking them up on sale someday.

While I was watching the event video, though, I remember thinking to myself, "I'd like to play that," followed immediately by, "I already have everything I need to play that." That's because I already own a gaming PC and an Xbox One. Microsoft's commitment to supporting those platforms is going to make it easier than ever for people like me to dive into the Xbox Series X library without ever buying an Xbox Series X.

(Image credit: Xbox)

Play where you want

I should preface the rest of this piece by saying that for someone who works at a tech site, I can be a bit of a luddite. I tend to run my gear into the ground, performing series of minor repairs for years rather than just break down and buy new gadgets. I owned my last laptop for eight years; my desktop is 10 and counting. I don't buy new consoles until the last generation stops supporting the games I want.

As such, I was thrilled a few months back when Microsoft committed to releasing all Xbox Series X first-party games on PC as well. Furthermore, these games will be on Xbox One, too, at least for the foreseeable future. This means that every game I discussed above, I already own the necessary hardware to play.

Will Avowed be as pretty on my PC or current-gen consoles as on Xbox Series X? Probably not. My desktop is pretty old, as stated, and my Xbox One S can't handle 4K resolutions or 60 fps frame rates. Load times will be longer, textures will be less defined and the overall gameplay will be less smooth. And yet, when I think back to all of my favorite games from the last generation, what I really remember about them is the moving stories, innovative gameplay and creative set pieces. I don't remember thinking, "I wish this game looked prettier and loaded faster."

Granted, there is a danger in this kind of thinking. After all, if we were totally content with existing technology, all the time, there would be no incentive for graphics to get better or frame rates to get smoother. But the Xbox Series X will cost hundreds of dollars. I can spend those hundreds of dollars on Microsoft's promising new games — or I can spend them on a third system that supports them. The choice doesn't seem very hard.

Changing my mind about Xbox Series X 

(Image credit: Xbox)

Another thing I appreciate about Microsoft, however, is that it won't charge me anything extra if I change my mind. Suppose I'm absolutely, flat-out wrong about next-gen games on current-gen platforms. I think back to games like Dragon Quest: Inquisition, which was technically available on Xbox 360 and PS3, but only in a neutered, halfhearted form. Sooner or later, a game is going to come along that's either markedly better on Xbox Series X, or nearly unplayable on the Xbox One.

When that day comes, I may have to dig deep into my wallet and shell out for an Xbox Series X. But at least I'll hit the ground running. Thanks to Microsoft's Smart Delivery system, any first-party Xbox One game I buy will entitle me automatically to an Xbox Series X upgrade. My save data will carry over, too, so my first few frustrating hours with a game won't have been in vain. Having to buy a brand-new console is expensive enough, but having to pay dozens of extra dollars to upgrade your games library would just be adding insult to injury. Losing your save data on top of that is adding insult to insult.

Microsoft's latest livestream didn't make me want an Xbox Series X at all. In previous console generations, this might have seemed like a huge problem. But now, I'm excited that I can play the games I want with the hardware I already own — and if I choose to upgrade in the future, all my games and progress will come with me.

This fits right in with Microsoft's strategy of building a continuous ecosystem rather than just a single console generation. And if the plan works, within the next few years, fans might start wondering why Sony and Nintendo have been so stingy with cross-platform compatibility.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.