The handheld space has seen massive growth in recent years. Driven primarily by the success of the Nintendo Switch, it has seen other major players enter the space as well, with the likes of the Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally providing well-rounded portable PC gaming experiences. Soon, Sony will be throwing its hat in the ring with the Remote Play device PlayStation Portal– so can we expect Microsoft to eventually join the fray as well?
It doesn’t seem like that’s part of the plan. Speaking recently with Eurogamer, Xbox boss Phil Spencer touched on the topic, saying that thanks to almost every Xbox game being playable on handheld devices like Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally, and often also supporting cross-save functionality, Microsoft doesn’t see a space that needs to be filled with a device that’ll deliver something that can’t already be found on the market.
“We have a lot of games in Steam, so I can kind of see and in fact, I think we just saw in the Steam charts that Linux is now ahead of Mac OS as a runtime platform, and I have to believe the Steam Deck had a ton to do with that,” Spencer said. ” I know for me, my ROG Ally is my Xbox on the go. Because almost every game supports cross-save so I can sit down and I can pick up my progress there. My friends are there if I’m playing a multiplayer game. And then when I go home, and I pick up from my console, it’s very continuous. So I’m picking a little bit on the niche experience. I think if it was something totally dedicated to being extension of the console. But these are standalone platforms unto themselves.”
He went on to add that specifically where the ROG Ally is concerned, other than the fact that it wasn’t actually made by Microsoft itself, it functions like a portable Xbox device in all but name, given how similar of an experience it offers.
“I’ll pick the ROG Ally because it’s one I’m playing on right now a lot. Every time I sit down I and I’m playing with it – I’m playing a lot of Brotato right now – but it’s like, why doesn’t this feel… why isn’t this an Xbox?” Spencer said. “What is it about it, for the player experience? Forget about what colour the plastic is or whose name is on the back of it. What is it about that experience that is different when I’m on the go from what I have with my console? I think the differences are smaller and smaller for us. Because Game Pass is there so my library of games are there. The controls are basically the same ABXY, twin stick, triggers. My saved games are there. So yeah, I don’t need people to buy a piece of hardware from us specifically to go play. It’s an amazing Xbox experience, even though we didn’t build the device. And I think that’s totally fine.”
Given the platform-agnostic approach that Microsoft has adopted in recent years, and how it already encourages the Xbox userbase to take their games on the go with cloud streaming and Xbox Play Anywhere, many have wondered how long it’ll be before a dedicated portable Xbox device ends up getting released. Of course, when Spencer says that getting that experience is already possible with the devices that are currently on the market, he’s not wrong.
Then again, maybe that’s something that Microsoft is working on behind-the-scenes regardless, and could look at investing in further in the future. Given the level of success portable devices tend to enjoy now, I wouldn’t completely rule that out.