“Everything is better on PC.” If you’re a gamer, you’ve heard that at some point recently. Frustrated by a lack of upgrade options and limits on what they can do, some gamers have turned to using PCs for all of their gaming needs instead of a console. Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment console is pretty powerful, but it’s never going to be as fully featured as what you get if you purchase a Windows PC.
Rather than fight the trend, Microsoft is learning to embrace it. For years Microsoft only toyed with the idea of creating a gaming network on Windows PCs that offers the same features and functions as Xbox Live does on console. The free Windows 10 Upgrade that the company unleashed on Windows 7 and Windows 8 users last year delivers an Xbox experience made specifically for notebooks, desktops and tablets. What’s more, a series of new accessories are making gaming in Microsoft’s ecosystem more approachable than it has ever been.
Leaving action games behind for a bit, I recently decided now was the time to approach gaming from a different angle. The bulk of my video game purchases will always been on the Xbox One, but I’ve always enjoyed some genres that just aren’t well represented on consoles. Cities Skylines and Homeworld are just three of the games that I’d been dying to try.
You too can turn your PC into your second console, using most of the same accessories and services from Xbox One.
Your journey to turn your Windows PC into an Xbox One starts with Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. In our Windows 10 Review last year, Gotta Be Mobile covered the many reasons you might want to install the operating system. At the time, very little of those revolved around gaming. Microsoft only had the basic framework for Xbox on Windows in place.
The crux of the gaming experience on Windows is the new Xbox app. Decked out in gray and green, the Xbox app is both a way to access your games and stay connected when you’re not in them. Opening the app reveals an Activity Feed that mirrors what’s available on the Xbox One. A built-in store lets you shop for other new games to add to your digital Xbox library. Achievement tracking, messaging and alerts are available too.
There are no mind-blogging new features introduced here; Microsoft’s secret is interoperability. The company surfaces what’s important from your Xbox Live profile on Xbox 360 and Xbox One within the app. The Friends that you can create a party with and communicate with are the same friends from your Xbox console. The Achievements that you earn populate the same profile as Xbox One. This app doubles as a client for your Xbox too, letting you stream games across your local network and to your PC.
My journey to becoming a PC gamer didn’t start with taking advantage of the Free Windows 10 Upgrade Offer. I already had it installed. If you qualify for the free upgrade, consider taking advantage of it.
As with all gaming, PC gaming is heavily steeped in accessory buying. That Xbox on Windows is all about interoperability certainly lightens the hit your wallet would take otherwise. The Xbox One Wireless Controller and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller both work within the confines of Windows. Plug them into your PC with a micro-USB cable and Windows 10 immediately understands them. To get the best wireless experience you’ll need the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, a $25 accessory that lets your Windows PC talk to Xbox One controllers and headsets without a cable. The adapter isn’t the most attractive dongle ever, but I haven’t had a problem out of it since buying it.
- Buy the Xbox One Wireless Controller
- Buy the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
- Buy the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows
Once you’ve purchased what you need, download the Xbox Accessories app. It’s a little anemic right now, but the app provides dedicated, easy to sort through settings for the Microsoft-made gaming accessories that you have. You can remap the buttons on your Xbox Elite Wireless Controller through the app. Firmware updates for all controllers are available through the app too, allowing you to skip your console entirely.
Add All of Your Games From Steam
Microsoft is building out the Xbox on Windows infrastructure quickly, but it’s still got a long way to go. Too many gamers and game developers were burned by its previous efforts at selling PC games directly for there to not be some lasting consequences. Releases like Rise of The Tomb Raider prove that the right plumbing is in place. Only time will tell if big game developers flock to the Windows Store in droves.
Meanwhile, you need a place to buy your PC games, and there’s only once service that comes to mind: Steam. Available through a dedicated client that you download on to your device, Steam is available on Linux, Windows and Mac. A lot of the app and service duplicates what Microsoft is trying to build in Windows. Game save sync and social profiles are built-in. The Xbox app can’t manage these games for you, but it can take screenshots, record video and link you to them. Of all the serious games I’ve installed on my Windows PC, only Minecraft came from the Windows Store. Homeworld Remastered, Star Trek Online, Cities Skylines, Civilization Beyond Earth and Payday 2 were all through Steam.
Getting started with everything was pretty easy. Mainly, that was because I had a computer built on the right foundation. To handle games like your Xbox One does, you’ll want a notebook or desktop with a discrete graphics card, plenty of storage and at least 8GB of RAM. If you’re starting out with less demanding games, you have some wiggle room for something with as little as 4GB of RAM, but don’t expect the best performance.