Xbox on PC still ain’t it, Chief

Xbox app on PC

A few years back, Microsoft started making a concerted effort to put games on Windows again. For PC players who’d learned how to live without many of the company’s exclusives, that moment was the one they’d all been waiting for.

Since then, PC players have pretty much been treated as equals. Titles like Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and both Ori games have made the jump. Even Xbox Game Pass is present on PC now, though not as flush with content as the console version. Still, for Xbox fans who call PC their primary home, playing on what is Microsoft’s other platform still feels like a lesser experience. Here’s why.

A Plague Tale: Innocence / Credit: Xbox.com

Xbox features are implemented inconsistently

Microsoft hosting its own digital games platform on PC should mean it gets to call some shots, right? If you put a title in the PC Xbox app, for example, your game should have achievements. If you’re selling the exact same title on Xbox One, you should tone the greed down a few notches and add Xbox Play Anywhere so purchases and saves transfer between the two platforms.

This isn’t happening right now. Instead, what you have is a scattershot approach as to what does and does not support many beloved Xbox features.

Take Deliver Us The Moon as an example. The game is available on both PC and Xbox One, but is far better experienced on PC, where the frame rate isn’t quite so janky. If you play the game on PC, however, you can say goodbye to achievements. Somehow the Xbox One version has them, but the PC version — present in the Xbox PC app — does not.

And Xbox Play Anywhere? That sure seems like something only Microsoft and its very close partners are supporting at this point. So you can spring for a copy of the very good A Plague Tale: Innocence on Xbox One. If you happen to also play on PC, though, Microsoft’s PC store won’t honor that digital purchase. Your save won’t transfer, either — even if you buy it twice.

Credit: Xbox.com

No love for controllers

Perhaps you never took to keyboard and mouse gaming. For you, it’s all controllers all the time. You can play most games on PC with a controller, enabling you to essentially build your own Xbox with the hardware you want or can afford. Toss in an Xbox Game Pass subscription and you’re good to go.

Except it’s not that easy.

For all of the controller support found in Microsoft’s games on PC, the company hasn’t gotten around to building a controller-friendly interface. Browsing the Xbox app is very much meant for keyboard and mouse. The Xbox overlay — while useful — is tough to navigate without a pointing device.

If you’re someone who games on PC from the couch, it’s almost a necessity to have a wireless keyboard and mouse handy, because you can’t do a lot of things without them. Microsoft really needs to figure this part of the equation out. The status quo is currently doing controller users on PC a huge disservice.

Credit: Xbox.com

Xbox Game Pass on PC still isn’t as good as console

You may be able to pin the blame on Steam for this one. After all, that store’s dominance is a lot of why Microsoft’s own marketplace is so barren. Facts are facts, though. When you look at Game Pass on console versus Game Pass on PC, it’s clear console has the better library.

That’s not to say Microsoft doesn’t know this. It’s probably the reason why Xbox Game Pass on PC was available for so long at its introductory $4.99 per month price. But it definitely hurts the look of the offering — and the souls of gamers — when games like NieR: Automata hit Game Pass on console and PC players get zilch.

This will be a tougher nut to crack.

It seems that Microsoft has been enticing developers and publishers over to its storefront using Game Pass as a trojan horse. What that’s meant, unfortunately, is you can’t expect to see a big-name title getting the Xbox love on PC unless it’s gone through Game Pass first. What should be happening is the opposite. Microsoft needs to give companies a reason to sell their games in the Microsoft store first. That makes the inevitable Game Pass discussion easier to have down the line, and could lead to better titles in Xbox Game Pass for PC.


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Author: Shawn Farner

Shawn Farner's primary beat is Xbox. You can reach him at shawn@corexbox.com, or on Twitter at @pixelquips.