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Xbox boss discusses possibilities of an Xbox handheld

Phil Spencer, is exploring the possibility of bringing a handheld device to the platform, aiming to bridge the gap between console and handheld gaming and provide a unified gaming experience.

Xbox Elite controller on Steam Deck
Image: Kegan Mooney / KnowTechie

Microsoft’s gaming chief, Phil Spencer, wants to bring a handheld device to the platform.

As he navigated through currently available portable PC gaming resources like the Asus ROG Ally and the Lenovo Legion Go during the Game Developers Conference, he envisioned what an Xbox iteration could contribute to this field.

In an interview with Polygon, Spencer said he wants a portable gaming device that enhances the Xbox gaming experience. He envisions accommodating players’ save files—a unified gaming ecosystem bridging gaps between console and handheld gaming.

He desires a unified gaming ecosystem that connects console and handheld gaming, aiming to resolve issues like the lack of “cross-save” functionality in games such as Fallout 76.

Spencer articulated what he wants in a portable gaming device, in short, something that effortlessly broadens the realm of Xbox.

“I want my Lenovo Legion Go to feel like an Xbox,” Spencer told Polygon during an annual Game Developers Conference interview. “I brought [the Legion Go] with me to GDC. I’m on the airplane and I have this list of everything that makes it not feel like an Xbox. Forget about the brand. More like: Are all of my games there? Do all my games show up with the save [files] that I want? I’ll tell you one [game] that doesn’t right now — it’s driving me crazy — is Fallout 76. It doesn’t have cross-save.

“I want to be able to boot into the Xbox app in a full screen, but in a compact mode. And all of my social [experience] is there. Like I want it to feel like the dash of my Xbox when I turn on the television. [Except I want it] on those devices.”

Why did it take so long for Microsoft to wake up and smell the coffee

Microsoft’s delay in joining the handheld gaming market isn’t necessarily due to being blindsided. They were more invested in perfecting their home gaming console, the Xbox.

The technology at the time didn’t allow for a quality handheld gaming experience that could match what their consoles offered.

The rise of powerful devices like the Nintendo Switch and Valve Steam Deck has changed things, showing that rich, console-level games can now be played on handheld devices.

Seeing successful competition, Microsoft recognizes the time is right to bring the Xbox experience into the handheld market.

Waiting allowed them to learn from competitors and avoid early tech limitations. Their approach seems more calculated than late.

xbox game pass logo next to steam deck
Image: KnowTechie

The Hardware vs Software Conundrum

Spencer seems to understand that potential handheld Xbox solutions must grapple with two key fronts – the hardware and software approach. His interview sheds light on his perspective, emphasizing how the Xbox experience could define any handheld device.

As he alludes, any transformative gaming experience should be able to transcend the confinement of the hardware used and induce the quality of immersion Xbox has achieved.

This vision is less about physical hand-held Xbox consoles and more about universalizing Xbox’s high-standard gaming experience.

Addressing the other side of the coin, Spencer acknowledges the reality of players’ diverse brand preferences.

This led him to consider focusing extensively on improving the Xbox handheld gaming software experience despite the handheld devices’ branding—a way to contribute to and improve the gaming experience on popular handheld giants like the Legion Go and Ally, which run on Windows.

Spencer is thinking about new hardware options for gaming. Late in the same interview, Spenser mentions that Xbox is available to players even if they use different devices.

At the SIGGRAPH Gaming Expo 2022, Spencer discussed providing an experience beyond hardware.

Piecing it Together

  1. The Xbox team is exploring different hardware forms for future Xbox models.
  2. Spencer aims to improve the Xbox experience on devices that run on Windows.
  3. He acknowledges that players might prefer other brands outside Xbox.

There’s no word yet on a new Xbox handheld, but Spencer’s hints point to it being important for Xbox’s plans. Combining the power of a console with the convenience of handheld gaming could change the game.

Are you open to the idea of an Xbox handheld? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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