An 'Xbox handheld' isn't just likely to happen. For Microsoft, it's absolutely necessary.

Cmndr_Bytes

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Depends on price of course but I probably would. I use my iPad now to cloud game when i'm away from my console. It fills a void. Would be great to have a hand held made by MS and dedicated to their systems. They would need to step up their game though on the back end. The waiting in the queue with the little rocket ship streaming by is not a good look when trying to establish a footprint in cloud gaming.
Oh and then there is the concern of someone, not naming names, deciding to kill the device if it after a year did not make a BUHillion zillion dollars. I don't want another MS device in my junk drawer.
 
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bazanime

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They already have many handhelds on the market, they just need to tighten up the software on these devices so when you game on them they feel like an Xbox dedicated system. At the press of a button, the device is in gaming mode, all unneeded functions and background resources are disabled or paused, and the user can just game. It can be done.
Focus on software to empower the existing very capable third-party hardware to produce a first-class service.
My phone feels great whilst on the Xbox Cloud game pass, with very few delays and games playing fluidly.
 

GraniteStateColin

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Just on the topic of Sony vs. MS in the console space, one small data point of myself: for the first time in several years, I fired up my old PS3 (yes 3), because I wanted to watch an older Blu-ray 3D movie and I was surprised to learn that the Xbox Series X couldn't do it. My older Xbox One and One X could, but those are now in now my son's and daughter's rooms.

I like my Series X, but to this day, I resent how badly they nerfed all the entertainment features we had in the Xbox One era. I appreciate they needed to cut stuff to improve the gaming capabilities without incurring skyrocketing costs, but I wish they had at least offered add-on support for voice control and facial recognition for sign-on (I used to call out from the kitchen to turn on the Xbox, the AVR, and TV all at once so it was ready to watch or play by the time I got into the room), HDMI pass through for TV, 3D Blu-ray support, etc. I think a lot of us who valued those Entertainment and control features as part of the reasons we bought the Xbox One in the first place would have paid extra to retain some of those features on the next gen console. I completely get that we're a minority, so make us pay for them, but don't just remove the features and break our experience. Instead, in a classic turn-your-back-on-your-fans approach, MS just "hit reset" as Nadella says and discarded all of us.

This does make me feel that MS is pushing me to buy Sony for my next system.

Positive note: I do deeply appreciate that at least all our games carried forward from Xbox One to Series X. On that front, they did do right by their customers and fans.
 

GraniteStateColin

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Great piece, Jez. Completely agree on the handheld opportunity from a business perspective. I don't know that I personally would get one -- my serious gaming tends to be planned for specific times with family when we're all together in the family room, at least right now. Nevertheless, I think you're exactly right on the opportunity and strategic reasons to do it.

Also, I think this actually ties even more tightly to Windows Phone, not just looking backward to the missed opportunity, but also looking forward to how they could still use gaming to help their own mobile needs: MS is in a unique position to leverage its gaming footprint to appeal to users for a mobile ecosystem. Combine that with Office and they could build a brand of "Work Hard. Play Hard" with the best in gaming and the best in productivity, all running on a new Surface Phone or mobile device.

I'd like to see them offer two mobile devices in the same family:

1. A Switch/Steam Deck-sized device, just as you've described, but with an option to include phone features (dialer, speakerphone, etc.) and a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that recharge inside the device (carrying around separate Bluetooth earbuds is an unnecessary hassle for a device that size)

2. A smaller pocketable device that like the Surface Duo, but with the full gaming features built-in and maybe some hardware controls in addition to the touchscreen (at the size, obviously can't be as good as the larger unit).

For the reasons I gave above, I wouldn't go for #1, but I would go for #2. If they offered a Game Pass Family plan with Cloud Gaming access for all family members with this device, I wouldn't just buy 1, I'd get one for each member of my family.

These should include optimal experiences for both Office and Xbox gaming. They should also put some work back into community competitive and achievement features like Gamerscore and ensure that at least all their own first-party games (now including all the King games) can feed into that, so that many gamers would want to use these devices to grow their score.

This is the right way to leverage the synergies in their respective areas of strength. Alas, I don't see that MS looks at any of their opportunities holistically like this. I think they believe that if you use Excel, you don't play games and vice versa, so instead of unifying these, they pit the two business units against each other like a Hunger Games fight when it comes time for their respective leaders' annual reviews. I can assure that most young adults think of themselves as gamers first and don't really care about the business features, but if you give them a way to have a prestige device for work that also provides the best mobile gaming experience, that's a winner.
 

fjtorres5591

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Me, no.
I'm a couch gamer; inhouse only.
If I need to kill time outside--say the doctor's office--I'll just read an ebook.

Others? Dunno. MS can reach a lot of those likely gamers by just reemphazing Play Anywhere (they don't promote it enough) and Windows portables, which is a crowded market.

The question here is, could MS get the Series S SOC down to a low enough power draw to fit into a handheld they can sell for $500 by 2025.
If not, all the speculation in the world will amount to nothing.
Do remember, MS looks at many things the end uo on the "cutting room floor".

MS ANDROMEDA ring a bell?
 

bazanime

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Just on the topic of Sony vs. MS in the console space, one small data point of myself: for the first time in several years, I fired up my old PS3 (yes 3), because I wanted to watch an older Blu-ray 3D movie and I was surprised to learn that the Xbox Series X couldn't do it. My older Xbox One and One X could, but those are now in now my son's and daughter's rooms.

I like my Series X, but to this day, I resent how badly they nerfed all the entertainment features we had in the Xbox One era. I appreciate they needed to cut stuff to improve the gaming capabilities without incurring skyrocketing costs, but I wish they had at least offered add-on support for voice control and facial recognition for sign-on (I used to call out from the kitchen to turn on the Xbox, the AVR, and TV all at once so it was ready to watch or play by the time I got into the room), HDMI pass through for TV, 3D Blu-ray support, etc. I think a lot of us who valued those Entertainment and control features as part of the reasons we bought the Xbox One in the first place would have paid extra to retain some of those features on the next gen console. I completely get that we're a minority, so make us pay for them, but don't just remove the features and break our experience. Instead, in a classic turn-your-back-on-your-fans approach, MS just "hit reset" as Nadella says and discarded all of us.

This does make me feel that MS is pushing me to buy Sony for my next system.

Positive note: I do deeply appreciate that at least all our games carried forward from Xbox One to Series X. On that front, they did do right by their customers and fans.
They are pushing you to the people who indirectly forced them to "Nerf features" just to compete? Doubtful!
Unfortunately, mindshare is still entrenched in the competitor's grasp due to nostalgia and first dibs on studios.

Fortunately, in the past years, Xbox has been more fan-focused than the competitor and has provided services accordingly.
Dont flee! Support the resurgence of the brand.
 

GraniteStateColin

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They are pushing you to the people who indirectly forced them to "Nerf features" just to compete? Doubtful!
Unfortunately, mindshare is still entrenched in the competitor's grasp due to nostalgia and first dibs on studios.

Fortunately, in the past years, Xbox has been more fan-focused than the competitor and has provided services accordingly.
Dont flee! Support the resurgence of the brand.

Sorry, to be clear, I'm not leaving Xbox, frustrated as I may be with MS for dropping features that mattered to me (even if I accept they have data showing they don't matter to most users). I just meant that they are pushing me to at least also use the competitors system. And if I have a total budget I'm willing to spend on systems, and I spend some on Sony, then that reduces the amount I have left to upgrade our Xboxes from One to Series S or X, slowing down how quickly I move us from last generation.

In short, MS' lack of perseverance is discouraging, whether it's Windows Phone, Surface Duo, Live Tiles, Skype integrated into Windows, Kinect (or just a separate voice control and support for even off-the-shelf third-party Hello-capable cameras for facial recognition login), 3D, HDMI-in for TV, and so much more. Every time they launch something and cancel it before it reaches maturity, I learn more and more not to trust MS to try anything they have. And if no one trusts them to try their new stuff, then logically, that means everything new they launch will fail. They need early adopters to evangelize the good stuff, but they keep squirting those of us who try to help them like a bad cat scratching their furniture. Eventually, we'll learn to stop helping.
 

BINARYGOD

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" I would argue that Xbox owners are probably considering PlayStation consoles as well at least for companion devices more so than the inverse — owing to single-player exclusives like Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (which looks fantastic)."

A study linked to on that console sales website (vgcharts?) showed that the number one second console among people with 2 or more consoles was the Series S.

Also, given the year MS has ahead of them, and the fact that I doubt most Xbox owners care that much about the second entry in a somewhat-controversial game series remake they cannot get the first one to, I doubt most Series 1 owners will be rushing out to get PS5 is they didn't do that already give the existing catalogue and backwards compatibility.
 

BINARYGOD

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"Many users don't want to deal with the complexity of Windows in general, which is why Steam is finding new audiences with its simple-interface Steam Deck, which plays all your favorite Windows games without the bullshit of Windows itself. "

My lord, I bite my tongue on most of it, but you really do write like you just plain do not understand PC gaming at all - on top of all of the many other things you clearly don't really know anything about.

Valve's handheld is selling well despite the not-installed-by-default Windows, which by default, restricts its gaming potential. Did you happen to know that dual booting into Windows was rather popular on the device?

Did you notice that all other handhelds have Windows, and that the main reason they sell less is that Valve is Valve and those other companies are just not as (unfortunately) beloved as Valve, and Valve gives you way more the money because the cost is offset with Steam earnings.

While I am sure, QUITE sure actually, that the anti-MS PC gamer who might care about a handheld loves that the deck is default linux, that's not really saying much about a portable xbox (or even saying much about most Desk users either).
 

Larry J

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Would you grab one?
See there's this app on Windows, and this is going to blow your mind, that is an Xbox app. 🤯
So if you take any device running windows and open the Xbox app, you have an Xbox.
PC, laptop, or portable.
Why would Microsoft need a portable device when the goal is to make Xbox a service?
Xbox isnt confined to a console, it's literally available on any widows machine.
The only reason to want an Xbox portable is just to have a ****** branded thing that isn't needed, because it exists on current platforms.
 

fatpunkslim

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Would you grab one?
Absolutely !

I think Xbox needs to listen to you and Xbox gamers !

look at this french dude who built a real portable xbox 360:

It took him 2 years to build it, beyond the technical feat, the number of views he got on his numerous videos (only in French, which limits the reach of the videos) shows to what extent players expect a portable xbox, that would be great, xbox must jump at the opportunity, it's now or never. Especially with the rumors of a PlayStation portable console. The proliferation of portable consoles and the success of the steam deck show that players are ready for an Xbox portable console, which would be great. Phil Spencer, I know you dream about it too, please!
 
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I've come to stop expecting Microsoft to actually take advantage of the hardware possibilities out there. At this point Microsoft feels like the company of missed opportunities and more to come.

Ideally, Xbox would push 3 main SKUs. a High End console for "gamers" (basically the Series X), a low end cheap entertainment device that can play most console games (the series S in a more ideal state), and a mid-tier handheld about as powerful as a steam deck for casuals. An Entertainment focused Xbox that didn't cost an arm and a leg and was incredibly small and light could actually give a firestick and apple tv a run for their money. That SHOULD be the series S right now except Xbox was so burnt from the Xbox One launch they didin't really realize what went wrong or that all its entertainment features were ahead of the curve. I think the Series S should already be bringing in new non-gamers, but its not and Microsoft really needs to ask themselves why. The problem is its a console for non-gamers that's not really marketed to them. A handheld would be amazing for reaching even more new people and I'd love one as a gamer myself, but it won't really have the needed effect if Microsoft still doesn't understand how to reach these new audiences.

I mean, why in the world did it take the steam deck running a version of Linux for the idea of a "gaming" mode to come about on a handheld PC? Why is Steam still so much more user friendly and inviting to gamers on windows than the Xbox app? Why is gaming on Windows still such a tedious chore? This is just proprietary software. Microsoft could have introduced a proper gaming mode with xbox branding long before steam and they could have done more to make the MS store experience for gaming not trash. They could have even introduced a feature to access other storefronts and libraries from this Xbox Gaming Mode so that Windows has a centralized gaming experience while retaining the openness everyone loves and there's still xbox branding everywhere. Except they didn't and now they're struggling to grow on their own proprietary platform and third party store fronts are both more well known and more well liked. I have a Lenovo Legion Go and Steam Deck right now and I love my Legion Go so much an d on paper I love the idea of accessing all my xbox play anywhere games. But I spend so much more time on my steam deck just because all I have to do is turn it on once and can just start playing games without the windows bloat. I didn't even buy games on steam before the deck.

They could actually bring back windows phone right now if they'd bother optimizing windows for mobile devices and made better use of the android subsystem (which was like 80% of the marketing before W11 dropped). Imagine a device that could natively run both windows and android apps. I don't understand why they don't let devs build android apps directly for the MS store instead of relying on the amazon appstore. Current Smartphone hardware would also make a modern windows phone killer. The iPhone is running (not in great quality but running), major AAA console releases, and this would give windows a massive opportunity where there's so much more freedom to download high end software and full games. Yeah everything won't play, but so many games like Sea of Stars are Ripe for mobile. They could even introduce a micorsoft store version of Vampire Survivors on android that's Xbox Play Anywhere. As much as they push AI, imagine if they actually used to smartly adapt windows to various device types. Instead of optimizing Windows so bad for mobile (not even really, just tablets) hardware that devices like Lenovo 2 in 1s are now just throwing in an Android mode because swapping between another OS is EASIER than trying to get Windows to work in a mobile SKU.

There's so many opportunities for them to grow their market share that they just don't take. And so many of them don't involve building a new SKU. That's not saying I don't want an Xbox handheld (I have since before I got an Xbox; a gameboy advanced hand-me-down was probably the first console that was just mine with the nintendo and playstations being for the family (and later Xbox became the first in my room/hooked to a tv)). But frankly Microsoft has proved over and over again they just can't market their products. They're the worst at building up perceived value from consumers. I just don't think not having a handheld is the root problem. The Series S is already a very different console than Nintendo or Sony offer right now and its not increasing the install base at all. The problem isn't their hardware offerings or software for that matter (you really can't look at 2023 and say they have no games). Its that Microsoft is trash at marketing and don't understand there's a different between percieved value and actual value and only the former matters.
 

HeyCori

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I've always been of the opinion that Microsoft should develop a legitimate launcher for Windows that's optimized for small screens. I don't even think they need to start from scratch. The Windows Store is fairly touch friendly already. Integrating account creation and a more robust app launcher should be trivial for Microsoft. It wouldn't solve every issue of Windows on a small screen, but a good launcher should help with the annoyance of navigating Windows.

But when talking about hardware, there's certainly a strong argument why Microsoft should develop its own handheld. Obviously, with the purchase of Activision-Blizzard, there's more than enough content to kick start a Xbox handheld ecosystem. In addition to current games, Game Pass, and mobile games, Microsoft could pull from their lengthy catalog of PC games they hold the publishing rights to.

Yet, I still think it's a bad move. There's a reason why Windows outsells Mac, and why Android outsells other mobile platforms. There's strength in numbers. Remove unjustified optimism from the equation and I can't think of a single reason why Microsoft should solo fight behemoths like Valve and Nintendo.

There are a lot of handhelds on the market right now, and there's no shortage of options for consumers that want mobile gaming on Windows. The biggest problem is that they're too damn pricey, and there's no way for them to get cheaper because the manufacturer's only way to make a profit is by selling the hardware. That left plenty of space for Valve to slide in with the Steam Deck because they can sell relatively powerful hardware that is subsidized by software sells.

What I think Microsoft should do is make these unofficial partners, official. The best way to do that is by splitting the revenue. If I remember correctly, Microsoft gets 30% of any 3rd party games sold through Xbox. Microsoft should split that revenue with manufacturers. Maybe it's 15/15, or 20/10, or maybe manufacturers get the full 30. The exact split isn't entirely relevant to the point. Like Valve, the goal is to subsidize hardware sells with software. Basically, if I buy a game on my Legion Go using the Xbox/Microsoft Store, then Microsoft would give Lenovo some of that revenue.

Microsoft would have to increase the size of the pot to make this work. As previously mentioned, Microsoft owns plenty of PC games to fill their own store. That's a lot of revenue to be passed around. Additionally, if manufacturers can make money through Xbox, that would disincentivize development of their own launchers and make Xbox the de-facto launcher they push. Plus, it would save them a ton of money by not having to develop or maintain their own launcher.

If revenue splitting can shave off $100-$150 off the cost of a Windows handheld, that would dramatically shift the balance of power in the handheld market. Like I said, there's strength in numbers and I don't think Microsoft gains much by developing their own handheld. Where Microsoft is really failing is by not developing software to back up manufacturer's ambitions.
 
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