Hardware and software often play leapfrog. With the introduction of the Next-Gen platforms from SONY & Microsoft, the hardware has jumped ahead of most games; that is to say that they are capable of better graphics than most games are capable of producing. New software will be coming that takes advantage of the teraflop speeds of the new units, but we are at the very beginning.
There is no doubting that both the Xbox X and PS5 are powerful machines. However, as we go to press they are both in short supply. This might be a blessing in disguise. In reality, neither console has a lot of software optimized to show off the power of the hardware inside, although more is coming every day. In fact, the next major installment of Halo won't be coming out until 2021. Even were you to snag an Xbox X would you be blown away? The consensus among critics is that the improvement over current models is incremental, not revolutionary. Plus, the difference you'll see depends, in part, on the capabilities of your TV set or monitor, as not every set will reap the full benefits it has to offer.
What I'm trying to say is that if you aren't lucky enough to pick up one of the Next-Gen consoles due to short supply, it isn't the end of the world. True, you won't have bragging rights, but if you have a gaming PC or Current-Gen Xbox I have good news for you: The best way to upgrade your gaming this holiday season is with the Xbox Game Pass.
"Heresy!", you say. Hear me out.
The best part of gaming is "the games". The best way to experience the breadth and depth of modern gaming is by gaining access to a huge library. If you game on a PC or Xbox that means "Game Pass".
Wrapping your head around the Xbox Game Pass is complicated by the fact that there are three differnent models, each with its own collection of games:
Xbox Game Pass ($9.99 per month) - Gives access to the subscription library from an Xbox
Xbox Game Pass for PC ($9.99 per month) - As the name suggests this is for PC Gamers, and includes games that are not available on the Xbox, like the Age of Empires strategy game series.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PC members will receive EA Play on PC via the EA Desktop app at no additional cost starting in December 2020. Keep in mind, however, that EA Play is a subset of what is offered from Electronic Arts super-premium EA Play Pro. For example, while EA Play Pro includes Star War Squadrons, EA Play only has a 10 hour trial version. Interestingly, you can't upgrade the EA Play that will be bundled with Xbox Game Pass variants.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($14.99 per month) - Gives you access to the games on Xbox & PC, including EA Play. Additionally, it opens the door to mobile play via Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming, now in Beta. Note, however that it is currently only available on Android. You'll also need an Xbox Bluetooth-enabled controller or other supported controller, and 10-Mbps down-speed.
So, "Xbox Game Pass" takes in a lot more territory than the Xbox console. In two of its three models it includes PC gaming, and in the "Ultimate" variety, mobile gaming, too.
As a PC gamer, who sometimes plays on the Xbox, the Ultimate is a no-brainer, an incredible way to play some of the best games ever on either platform, or even when on a mobile Android Device.
Unlike some subscription services, included in the passes are top-tier games. Of course, you don't own them. At some point your favorite may go away, but as long as it is there you have unlimited access to it and over a hundred other games.
There are family games, but keep in mind that not every Xbox game will play on a PC and vice versa. For example, Planet Coaster: Console Edition will not install on a PC, even though the company makes a PC version. By far, the best family oriented games are available on the Xbox, and not the PC versions, of the pass, including racing games, sports titles, Disneyland Adventures, Planet Coaster, and Zoo Tycoon.
Microsoft has given parents lots of control over what games their kids can play with strong parental controls, but you have to take responsibility for setting them up! Be careful or your kids will have access to titles clearly marked for adult audiences.
You can pick up your Game Pass at a Microsoft Store, or on-line. Because the names of the three versions are similar, be sure to read the fine print carefully to make sure you're purchasing the one that is right for the way you game.