Gaming became an expensive hobby after the pandemic began and silicon shortages worsened. While you might not be able to build your dream gaming PC right now, you might be able to get your hands on an Xbox Series X instead.
Value for Money
Consoles should offer good value for money, but that’s not always the case from the outset. Events like a price drop or a hardware revision can affect the value proposition, but in the current climate (writing in January 2022) even a Series X is good value for money at launch price.
This has much to do with the ongoing semiconductor shortage. As a result of the global pandemic (and a few natural disasters), many chip manufacturers are working through a backlog of orders which has put the squeeze on just about every industry that relies on them.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the PC GPU space, where scarcity has made buying a graphics card more like winning a lottery. Many of these cards are snapped up immediately by scalpers who sell them for vastly inflated prices. According to December 2021 trends tracked by Tom’s Hardware, even “low-end” cards like the GeForce RTX 3060 average around $761 on eBay; while AMD’s 1080p budget option like the RX 6600 fetch $578 on average.
This has had a domino effect for the second-hand GPU market, where cards that predate the latest generation of consoles like the GeForce RTX 1660 Ti average $500, the same price as a Series X console at MSRP. The card that most closely matches the performance output of the Series X is AMD’s RX 6700 XT which averages just shy of $900 on eBay.
And that’s just the price of the GPU. You’ll then need to assemble the rest of your PC components, including a CPU (similar demand and scalping issues), RAM, a motherboard, some storage, and a case to throw everything in. Hopefully, you’ve got an old mouse and keyboard you can use—or you’ll need to spend some money there, too.
It’s worth pointing out that we’re looking at this problem from a strict gaming perspective. You can do a lot more with a PC than simply play games, so if you’re building a machine that doubles up as a work or study station, it’s a lot easier to justify the expense. Also of note is the fact that the Series X has experienced its own fair share of scalpers, but it seems that availability in January 2022 is a lot better than it was for most of 2021.
If you’re patient and you follow some stock alerts Twitter accounts (like @XboxStockAlerts, @ConsoleStockUK, and @AustraliaXSX) then you should be able to snag a console at retail price. Just be sure to turn tweet notifications on and make sure you’re logged in with Amazon, Microsoft, GameStop, and anywhere else you might get one from locally.
Nothing Can Match Game Pass
Game Pass is Microsoft’s all-you-can-eat subscription service, which provides access to a library of over 100 games that you can download and play. You’ll get a month (or possibly three months) for $1 with your console. You’ll lose access to them when you cancel your subscription, just as you would with a service like Netflix or Spotify.
While the subscription model isn’t for everyone, it’s hard not to recommend that everyone with an Xbox at least gives Game Pass a shot. For $14.99 a month you’ll get access to the Ultimate tier which includes Xbox Live Gold (for playing online), games on Windows with Game Pass for PC, and cloud gaming for the vast majority of titles.
Microsoft routinely adds new games to the service, with a rich variety of tastes accounted for. You’ll get access to every first-party game on day one with a Game Pass subscription, which includes franchises like Halo, Forza, and Minecraft. Going forward this includes acquisitions from studios like Bethesda Game Studios including upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield and future titles in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises.
Game Pass works best if you approach it as a buffet for games. Since you’re already paying for access, you might as well try a bit of everything and find out what you like. This is a great way of discovering games you might have otherwise passed up or those that have piqued your interest but not quite to the extent where you’re opening your wallet.
While a game is on Game Pass you’ll be able to purchase it for a discounted price, and you’ll get some notice of what’s leaving so you can try it then buy it to save some money before it’s gone.
As noted, Game Pass also exists on Windows and provides a good value proposition there too. Unfortunately, Game Pass for PC doesn’t have such a large library of titles to choose from, and some gamers report that the software often doesn’t “just work” as it does on Xbox.
Use Your Old TV or Monitor and Peripherals
You don’t need a fancy new 4K TV to use a Series X. The console is capable of outputting at 1080p resolution, so if you’re on a budget and simply want the best bang for your buck in terms of gaming hardware right now, the Series X is a viable option. You can then replace your display at a later date when your bank account has recovered.
If you’re a PC gamer with a 1440p monitor, you can use that at its native resolution too. This makes the Series X a seriously tempting proposition for a PC gamer who wants to upgrade but has been put off by availability problems and the scalper problem. If your monitor goes up to 120Hz and beyond then you can make use of this higher refresh rate in some games, like Halo Infinite.
Something else that may appeal to PC gamers is the growing number of Xbox titles that include support for mouse and keyboard. Not only has Razer released an “official” Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Combo with an Xbox key (which functions like the Xbox button on a controller), but most wireless keyboards and mice will work provided they use a dongle and not Bluetooth (you can also use wired peripherals).
You can use these peripherals in games like Halo Infinite and The Master Chief Collection, Call of Duty: Warzone and Vanguard, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Flight Sim, and strategy titles like Cities: Skylines and Gears Tactics. Xbox blog Pure Xbox has created a running tally of all games that support the feature here.
Xbox Gaming With a PC Feel
Finally, if you have an old Xbox One you can use your previous-generation controllers with your new Series X hardware. If you’re looking for a cheap way to add a few controllers for local multiplayer games, picking up a few used Xbox One pads on eBay or Facebook Marketplace might be the way to go.
Console Optimization Often Trumps PC
If you’re coming from a gaming PC, you probably know all too well that PC gamers are often left out in the cold when it comes to optimization. There are so many different hardware configurations to account for on the PC end that this often presents an issue for developers when shipping a game. Others might not see the PC as a moneymaker in the same way that they view consoles, particularly for cross-generation releases.
This isn’t a good thing, but it’s still something to be aware of. In 2021 there were some glaring examples of this. Microsoft Flight Sim launched on Xbox in July and included a raft of performance improvements. The team at Asobo had spent the best part of a year refining the experience to work well on Xbox hardware, and thankfully these optimizations had a positive effect on PC performance too.
Resident Evil Village was another 2021 title that struggled on PC, while the Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 experienced far less slowdown. In this case, it was down to additional DRM that had been included in the PC version, which Capcom either didn’t test adequately or decided to roll with regardless of their testing.
The PC almost always pushes titles to look and perform better in time, but many feel short-changed along the way. There are still plenty of other reasons to play games on PC, from the granularity of visual preferences to the availability of early access titles like Valheim and PC-focused titles like Anno and Age of Empires.
What About the PlayStation 5 and Series S?
Much of the argument presented above also applies to Sony’s current-generation console, the PlayStation 5. But there are a few exceptions that, for some, will tip the scales in favor of an Xbox.
Game Pass is probably the strongest of them. Sony is tipped to be launching a similar subscription service sometime in 2022, but it’s unlikely to be as all-encompassing as Game Pass. First-party titles have not been earmarked for inclusion on day one, so you’ll still need to buy a copy of the next God of War or Horizon outing.
It’s also harder to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 than it is on an Xbox Series X. Demand for Sony’s console is higher, which means you’re competing with more gamers eager to get their hands on one. The same advice applies here, get on Twitter and follow some stock alerts accounts (like @PS5Updates, @PS5_UKAlerts, and @AustraliaPS5), then hit the notifications button.
To play all of the biggest releases, you’re going to need both an Xbox Series console and a PlayStation 5. Exclusives are designed to draw you to a platform, and the fact remains that you can buy both of these systems for the resale price of a low-to-mid-range graphics card.
Lastly, Microsoft has no VR plan (yet, at least). Sony is moving ahead with the PSVR2, a 4K HDR gaming headset with haptic feedback, 3D audio, and tracking features that don’t require a separate camera module. If that’s something you’re interested in and you don’t want to remortgage your house to buy a PC that’s up to the task, consider investing in a PlayStation 5 instead.
The Series S is a capable console that also has access to Game Pass, and it’s also in plentiful supply. You can probably walk into your local electronics retailer and buy one right now. But the Series S is primarily a 1080p gaming machine, which means you’ll probably feel the need to upgrade it sooner than if you were to buy a Series X. It also has half of the built-in storage at only 500GB, and when you factor in the price of an Xbox Series storage upgrade the $200 gap between the two consoles seems far less appealing.
While it makes for an excellent emulation machine, the Series S often suffers from bigger downgrades than a simple resolution drop in many titles. For example, Halo Infinite can run at 60fps and 120fps in quality and performance mode respectively on Series X, but the weaker machine only manages 30fps and 60fps. It’s not a bad buy, but the Series X outperforms it in many metrics even on a sub-4K display.
The Great Chip Shortage Rages On
At the time of writing in early 2022, the chip shortage is far from over. Some analysts predict it will extend well into 2023, making it more difficult to buy everything from cars and consoles to fridges and printers.
The situation is so bad that scammers are taking advantage of it and even Raspberry Pi prices have increased, bucking the trend for the affordable all-in-one. All this means if you spot a good buy like the Xbox Series X, you might want to go ahead and take the deal.