Unveiling the Future of Gaming: Is an XBOX Handheld in the Horizon?

There has been a lot of recent speculation regarding a new Xbox handheld console, especially amidst murmurs in the gaming community suggesting a handheld console is coming from none other than Microsoft. Considering Microsoft’s track record in gaming and its propensity to toy with features that take the industry to new heights, we thought it apt to take part in the discussion. Welcome to the world of video gaming…

MICROSOFT's Bold Steps Towards an All-Digital Xbox Series X

Closing a recent showcase that had console-hyping Nintendo Switch levels of hype (and had left gamers worldwide sitting on the edge of their seats), Microsoft teased an all-digital Xbox Series X. Yet it was Microsoft’s conspicuous silence about another, much stranger project that made gamers stand up and take notice: the rumoured Xbox handheld.

The Rumors Addressed: An XBOX Handheld on the Horizon

At IGN Live this summer, when Xbox’s Phil Spencer hit the stage with IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey and everyone knew the question that was coming, it went exactly as everyone hoped: Are you working on an Xbox handheld? ‘The future that we have in hardware is pretty exciting,’ Spencer replied, all but pointing to mysterious prototypes sitting behind the stage and the like-minded people tinkering away on them, ‘as we look forward to different form factors and interacting with gaming in new ways.’ That was all he would offer, but the fact that he offered it at all, a genuine hope for the future of Microsoft’s gaming hardware – not just that they’re dreaming about the future but that they’re making it happen.

The Debate: Cloud-Based or Locally Played Games?

Another big question about the hypothetical Xbox handheld would be whether it leans towards cloud gaming or supports local gaming. Spencer answered that question unequivocally. ‘If you are going to create a local device, it really needs to play local games really well,’ he said. It sounds like a device that can stand with the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch alike, with fluid, local games that aren’t weighed down by the necessity of an always-connected internet connection.

A Glimpse into MICROSOFT's Vision

Old documents leaked by employees revealed that Microsoft had planned such a device for an Xbox handheld years before, but Spencer claimed they were years old – even if he was not shy to outline his vision in subsequent interviews. ‘The Xbox in your pocket, the ability to play any game in our console library, your saves there, starting to break down those barriers to play, reach a whole new type of player, and bringing that experience out of the living room.’

A Future Teased but Not Revealed

Indeed, ahead of even Microsoft’s announcement, it had dropped some hints about new hardware, including the next iteration of the Xbox console, due in the next couple of years. What the handheld looks like is anybody’s guess. But the puzzle is coming into focus. The realm of gaming will become more accessible, more versatile, more immersive than ever.

Addressing the Here and Now

Amid speculation about the future, Spencer was also keen to address what had just happened: notably, the shuttering of the developer behind Hi-Fi Rush (which has since been resurrected in a different form), Tango Gameworks, as well as other partners. It’s difficult, even in the best of times, to find meaning in the short-term ups and downs of the games industry. But Microsoft, like any investor, is in this for the long haul. And, in any case, the company is not only committed to its vision as a gaming company but also its community.

A Glimpse Behind the XBOX Magic

Before we end this journey into what, sad to say, might never be a real Xbox handheld, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate what truly underpins all of this: Microsoft’s ever-evolving vision to be a leader in the world of digital. From the late 80s through the late 90s, the company transformed itself from a basic software house into not just a game-making one, but also a game-playing one of immense proportions. By the early 2000s, it had brought together a vivid, bold and ambitious range of products from where, in seizing upon a future primed to unleash imagination, it became the dominant force it is now to this day: a company whose empire of creativity shows no signs of slowing its elevation of the interactive – but now fully immersive – world of entertainment. This is, once again, a boldly forward-looking Microsoft, one that is primed to give us a future where gaming worlds will be more convincing, more involving and all the playing one. And, in any case, the company is not only committed to its vision as a gaming company but also its community.

Jun 10, 2024
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