gamers Series

PS5 and Xbox Series X will be great for PC gamers — here’s why – Tom’s Guide

PS5 and Xbox Series X will be great for PC gamers — here’s why

(Image credit: Microsoft/Sony)

Now that the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are due out soon, the “should you buy a PC or a console” debate has reared its ugly head once again. Sometimes a worthwhile thought experiment and sometimes a tiring shouting match, the PC/console debate has been going on in earnest for at least two console generations, and it looks like we’re going to have to fight it out at least once more. However, there’s a flip side to consider as well: The PS5 and Xbox Series X could benefit PC gamers tremendously, even if said gamers never touch a next-gen console.

Put simply, both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X will utilize technology that’s not currently available in even the best gaming PCs. Once the consoles come out, PC component manufacturers will have to make those parts available for gaming PCs as well. Once that happens, competition will drive down prices, meaning that upgrading your gaming rig come November could be an awful lot cheaper than doing it now.

Hardened PC gamers may not want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new console this fall. But if they can spend that money on a few well-placed upgrades instead, they may find themselves in possession of something much more powerful than either a PS5 or Xbox Series X.

PS5 and Xbox Series X components

You may be wondering what, exactly, the PS5 and Xbox Series X will have that you couldn’t get right now. After all, we know each system’s specs (check out our PS5 vs. Xbox Series X article for a handy chart), and none of it looks particularly outlandish. Intel and AMD both make processors that rival what will be in the consoles, while you could easily outdo the consoles’ RAM on even a moderately priced PC build.

There are two areas where the PS5 and Xbox Series X may have a significant leg up on consoles, however: the GPU and the SSD. While they’re both a little difficult to compare apples-to-apples (a PC serves a fundamentally different purpose than a gaming console, even if a lot of the same tech goes into both), you may be better off upgrading your GPU and SSD after the consoles debut.

PS5 and Xbox Series X will be great for PC gamers — here’s why

(Image credit: Microsoft/Tom’s Guide)

First off, it’s not easy to find a GPU that’s comparable to the RDNA2 models that the PS5 and Xbox Series X will use. The closest thing to the PS5 is arguably the AMD RX 7500, while an Xbox Series X GPU resembles an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super. At the time of writing, the former costs a steep $350; the latter costs an eye-watering $720.

However, at the moment, PC component manufacturers can pretty much charge what they want for these high-end GPUs. After all, PC gamers who want that level of performance have very few choices. This calculus will change considerably later this year, when players will have the option of getting similar performance from a machine that costs (roughly) $500. Component manufacturers will have to either lower their prices or offer a new, comparable product.

PS5 and Xbox Series X will be great for PC gamers — here’s why

(Image credit: Sony / Tom’s Guide)

Then there are the SSDs, which are arguably the defining feature of both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. Without rehashing his entire presentation from March, PS5 architect Mark Cerny explained that the PS5 uses a faster, more complex SSD than anything currently on the market. High-end PC SSDs can process about 3.5 GB/s, while the PS5 will supposedly be able to handle 5 GB/s. We know less about the Xbox Series X’s SSD, but we assume it will target similar numbers.

A difference of 1.5 GB/s could make a huge difference, particularly on PCs, where gamers have the option to load higher resolutions, more detailed textures and further draw distances. A state-of-the-art PC you build today might still load data slower than a PS5 or Xbox Series X. You’ll eventually be able to close the gap, but not until the next-gen consoles popularize this upgraded SSD tech.

How consoles make PC parts cheaper

There’s a decent argument to be made that consoles make PC parts cheaper and more accessible. The logic goes like this: Suppose a powerful PC component, like a state-of-the-art GPU, is extremely expensive. Relatively few people can afford it, and as such, relatively few PC gamers can reap its benefits.

PS5 and Xbox Series X will be great for PC gamers — here’s why

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Now suppose that a console manufacturer decides that its next-gen console should come standard with that GPU, or else something similar to it. Mass-producing the GPU makes the technology more widely available, which drives down the cost across the board, which means that a bigger swath of PC gamers can afford the gear. Then, a new piece of tech comes out, early adopters on the PC sing its praises, console gamers want something similar, manufacturers make it happen, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

While the direct connection between PC and console parts can be a little obscure (the PS5 and Xbox Series X aren’t going to have a GPU that would fit in a PC, for example), it’s extremely easy to see this observation in action. RAM provides a useful example, as it’s inexpensive, easy to upgrade and frequently becomes more powerful.

Back when the PS4 and the Xbox One came out in 2013, it cost quite a bit of money to put 8 GB RAM in your computer: $80 for a decent brand. On the other hand, having 8 GB was something of a luxury, even for a gaming rig; after all, few games could make full use of that much memory.

But when the PS4 and the Xbox One came with 8 GB RAM preinstalled, it was only a matter of time until multiplatform games started using 8 GB RAM as a standard. Today, you can get 16 GB RAM for less than what 8 GB cost back then, and 32 GB RAM could easily hit $80 within the next year. Granted, some of this is the simple march of technological progress, but the PS4 and Xbox One essentially set the standard. You needed 8 GB RAM to run modern games; less wouldn’t cut it, and if you wanted to really push your games to the limit, you’d want more.

There’s no single, direct way that consoles make PC parts cheaper, but it does seem to happen nonetheless. Consoles establish the baseline to run current-gen games; mass production makes parts cheaper; component manufacturers lower prices to compensate. If you want to see this in action, price out how much it would cost to build a high-end gaming PC today, and try it again after the PS5 and Xbox Series X have been out for a few months. The price will be lower, naturally, but it may be lower than you’d expect from the ebb and flow of the PC market alone.

PCs in a console world

Granted, a lot of this piece is speculative. The PS5 and Xbox Series X GPUs and SSDs could be much less impressive in practice than on paper, and newish PCs could blow past them with ease. On the other hand, both Sony and Microsoft have made bold promises in terms of graphical fidelity and load times, and neither company wants a scandal on its hands come November (we assume).

The downside is that consoles may enjoy certain advantages over PCs in the short term. But the upside is that we expect the PS5 and Xbox Series X to popularize high-end tech and make it cheaper sooner rather than later. A custom-built PC will never be as cheap as a mass-produced console, but part of the beauty of PC gaming is that you can update piecemeal. If it’s too expensive to upgrade your SSD, GPU and RAM all at once, you can simply space out your purchases. That’s something a console would never let you do.

If you already have a good gaming PC, there’s no reason to run out and buy an Xbox Series X or a PS5. Even so, you may find the new consoles useful before the year is out.

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gamers Ultimate

With Game Pass Ultimate, PC gamers have no need for the Xbox Series X – TechRadar

The Gunk Xbox Series X

I don’t even know what this game is yet and I want it on my PC right now.
(Image credit: Microsoft)

After showing a ton of new and exciting games at the official Xbox Games Showcase, Microsoft made one thing abundantly clear to me: I’m already set for the next generation – at least when it comes to Xbox first-party games. 

Practically every game shown off at the event is coming to the best gaming PCs, which means that I don’t have to worry about dropping tons of cash on new hardware in November. I can just scrape by with the hardware I spent thousands on back in 2018.

And, at the end of the day, that comes down pretty much entirely to Games Pass Ultimate, a service I’ve been subscribed to since it officially came to PC back in June 2019. It doesn’t look like I’ll be unsubscribing any time soon, either. 

Halo: Infinite

The most iconic couple in gaming (Image credit: Microsoft)

So, let’s talk about Halo

It hasn’t even been a year since Halo: Reach kicked off the Halo Master Chief Collection on PC, so it’s not like I’m exactly desperate for Halo content on PC. However, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get my hands on Halo Infinite‘s apparently open-ended campaign. 

And for the first time since Halo 2, I’m going to be able to play a Halo game at the same time as console players without having to give up my precious mouse and keyboard. 

It almost feels like Halo is coming home to PC at long last with Halo: Infinite, and I just can’t help but wonder whether or not the demo that was shown off at today’s event was running at its full potential. Bear with me here. 

After the demo was shown off to the audience, we got a little chat with one of the developers, who told us that this game was running at a native 4K at 60 fps. However, the Xbox Series X only has a GPU that slots in between the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Super in terms of raw power. For those of us lucky enough to have an RTX 2080 Ti pushing frames inside of our computers, it’s possible that the game could look even better. 

It’s very unlikely that this is the case. Logic dictates that 343 Industries would show off Halo: Infinite in all of its glory, running on top-end PC hardware, rather than limiting itself to what the Xbox Series X can do. However, while the game does look incredible, it doesn’t really look like a game that will really push PC hardware any harder than current-gen titles – not that that’s a bad thing. 

Instead, I’m hoping that because I have the extra horsepower, there will be some ray traced effects I can turn on, because I’m definitely the type to prefer pretty graphics to high frame rates – and that choice is what PC gaming is all about. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

I want it. Now.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

Games Pass coming in with classic PC gaming flavor

There were two games showcased at the Xbox Games Event that were clearly love-letters to the PC gaming world, and those were Obsidian’s Avowed and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.

Both of these games just got brief teasers, but they both carry a huge history and legacy of PC gaming along with them – Obsidian’s history of crafting some of the most beloved PC RPGs like Neverwinter Nights 2 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 being the sequel to one of the most iconic PC games of all time. 

More importantly, this will be the first time that we’ll be getting an Obsidian game with a giant first-party budget, following the studio’s acquisition by Microsoft in 2019. The Studio has always been able to craft magic under less-than-ideal circumstances, even showing up Bethesda when it made Fallout: New Vegas after Fallout 3. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a bit more mysterious, however. The last S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game came out all the way back in 2009 with Call of Pripyat, which like all other games in the series, is a PC-exclusive title. It’s not clear who is publishing the game, whether Microsoft is publishing it or if GSC Game World is self-publishing the title after having to cancel its first attempt at a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 all the way back in 2011.

Either way, it’s going to mark the first time that a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game will make it to console, but according to the game’s website, the game should be just as ambitious as long-time fans would expect it to be, with the developer claiming that it will have “one of the largest seamless open worlds to date.” 

What’s even better, though, is that both of these exciting games bursting with PC flavor will be part of Games Pass Ultimate. With S.T.A.L.K.E.R. especially, there’s a level of denseness and difficulty to the game that may deter some folks from picking it up as a conventional game purchase. As part of a subscription, however, it may not be as threatening to give it a shot. I’m just hoping that the transition to a console title won’t eliminate any of the rough ‘charm’ of the original games. 

Xbox Series X games showcase

Thank you, games subscription. Thank you. (Image credit: Future)

Give me all of the games

While the fact that all of these games are coming to PC is incredibly exciting, the fact that they’re all included in the Games Pass Ultimate subscription is even better. What it essentially means is that I don’t have to drop money on either an Xbox Series X console or have to spend it on a full-priced game. There have been some hints that next-generation games are going to be going up in price, and I’m exactly the kind of stubborn person that will absolutely refuse to spend an extra ten bucks on a game. 

However, the way I personally engage with PC games right now is through three different subscriptions: Games Pass Ultimate, Humble Monthly and Origin Access. Through those three services, I get access to most of the biggest PC titles, and a healthy serving of the best indie games on PC even if some of them are a little old. 

If every single one of the exciting titles shown off at the Xbox Games Showcase is coming to one of these subscription services, then it’s going to be really easy for me to just refuse to buy any game that launches with a higher $70 price tag. 

And, sure I won’t ‘own’ these games, but look – I’ve been playing games on PC almost exclusively for the last 15-20 years at this point. I haven’t owned a game I paid for in a very long time, thanks to the complications around digital game ownership. At least this way I get access to all the latest games cheap and early – and in a post-game-ownership world, that’s something I can get excited about. 

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