Mockup of Xbox Game Pass on Steam Deck handheld

Why an Xbox Handheld is the Perfect Next Step for Microsoft

The time of the handheld is now.

Portable gaming is the new battleground for game companies to hash it out, and there has never been a better time for an Xbox handheld to enter the fray. With the gargantuan success of the Switch, Steam Deck, ROG Ally, and an overwhelming slew of other handheld gaming PCs, we reckon it’s high time Microsoft threw its hat in the ring.

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Xbox is Still Ticking

Riding off the coattails of one of Xbox’s strongest-ever games Showcases in recent memory, things have perked up a little for Microsoft’s gaming division. It’s a good thing too, as plenty of recent stumbles and mishaps have more than soured many fans’ outlook on the Xbox brand.

More recently, Xbox hasn’t had the best reception due to a slew of disappointing first-party releases (we’re looking at you, Redfall and Starfield), the rumored Game Pass price hike, and the tragic layoffs and closures of some of their most beloved game studios. A lot of pressure has mounted on Xbox’s shoulders, but with the recent rumors of an upcoming Xbox handheld on the horizon, I think the future is bright.

If the recent June 2024 Xbox Showcase is anything to go by, Xbox fans shouldn’t lose hope just yet. The prolific presentation contained a tantalizing smorgasbord of exciting upcoming titles. From finally seeing gameplay of the newly rebooted Fable and Perfect Dark, a mouth-watering glimpse at Doom: The Dark Ages, and a variety of cool-looking games just on the horizon, Xbox pulled it out of the bag. After knocking it out of the park, Phil Spencer himself sat down with IGN to talk all things Xbox.

xbox games showcase 2024 live blog all reveals and announcements
Image Source: Xbox Games Studios

In that conversation, Spencer all but revealed Microsoft’s plans to enter the handheld gaming space. He said that Xbox’s future in hardware is “pretty awesome.” When prompted further about the nature of a possible Xbox handheld, Spencer assured that the said device would be able to play games locally, rather than just be a streaming-only console. Color me intrigued!

It’s no wonder that the Xbox bigwigs seem to have big plans to enter the handheld gaming space. Firstly, the form factor is a perfect fit for Game Pass. Microsoft’s tempting subscription service has always been a brilliant home for indies, lower-budget double-A games, and of course, all-out first-party blockbusters. As the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck have shown time and again, playing handheld is the best way to enjoy these lesser-known and smaller experiences.

Handheld is the Future

As someone who owns a Nintendo Switch and a Steam Deck, playing in handheld has become my most preferred way of playing video games. I’ve sunk hundreds (if not thousands – yikes) of hours into indies and roguelikes playing on the Switch and the Steam Deck. There’s even an argument to be made for playing bigger titles portably. It was the only way I was able to finally finish The Witcher 3 on the Switch. Heck, I would never have made it to Act 3 of Baldur’s Gate 3 if I hadn’t spent most of my time playing it on the Steam Deck.

It’s true, there are already a myriad of portable gaming consoles out there, especially since the Steam Deck first made an appearance back in 2021. It’s become a bit of a crowded space, with the Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, and Ayaneo Air all vying for attention. It may seem a bit silly for Microsoft to throw their hat in the ring. However, while each of them is impressive in its own right, they come off as somewhat limited due to Windows not translating well to smaller screens. The Steam Deck’s dedicated OS fares better, but you can’t run Game Pass on it without a few very inconvenient workarounds.

Image Source: Xbox Game Studios

There’s also the more recent PlayStation Portal from Sony. Unlike the handhelds listed above, the Portal is strictly a streaming device that serves as a smaller second screen for your main PS5 console. While full DualSense controls are a nice touch, I’d be remiss to say that I wasn’t disappointed that it can’t play games natively. Microsoft and its Xbox Cloud Gaming service offer a similar experience. You can stream your Xbox library to any device with a screen and a pulse, within reason. While a very welcome and convenient feature, we reckon following the home-console-portable-hybrid footsteps of the Switch is the way to go for Xbox.

What I Want to See

So, what do I want to see from an Xbox handheld? First off, I’d like to see games run natively, and for it to not just be a streaming machine, a la the Portal. I want similar specs to the less powerful Xbox Series S if possible. Though it may not be viable now, we see this being possible in the not-so-distant future. There’s even a world where the Xbox handheld could release alongside a more powerful home console in the same vein as the Xbox Series S and Series X.

The best-case scenario would be that the Xbox handheld can run most games the next main console would run, with some caveats. I would be more than happy to simply stream the most demanding next-gen games to the handheld if need be. In this way, we can get the best of both worlds without having to hold back the next-gen system in a similar way the Series S has held back the Series X this generation.

xbox series x and series s
Image Source: Microsoft

Much like Nintendo, Xbox knows how to make a streamlined and user-friendly console experience that just works. There’s none of the tinkering and faffing about you’d get from the Steam Deck or any other PC handheld console. We really like the idea of simply booting the console up, easily and intuitively picking a game out of your vast Game Pass library, and playing without any issue. With Xbox’s heavy emphasis on multimedia functionality, we’d expect there to be a lot of neat apps and added extras to sweeten the deal too.

If Xbox can manage to pull off an Xbox handheld, I believe they could easily regain favor with the gaming community at large and retake the top spot akin to the glory days of the Xbox 360 era.  What do you think? Do you think an Xbox handheld is the way to go for Microsoft? Let us know below! For more on Xbox, check out 5 things PlayStation should copy from Xbox and the best Xbox Series X|S couch co-op games here.

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Alpay Dedezade
As a passionate gamer and an experienced writer, Alpay uses his enthusiasm and knowledge to cover a range of game topics and has been featured on Twinfinite, The Game Crater, GamingIntel,, and TheGamer. When not clacking away at his keyboard, he can be found exploring exciting virtual open worlds, lost in a high-concept TV show, or spending an unnecessary amount of money on yet another Steam sale for games he doesn’t have the time to play.