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Phil Spencer discusses potential Xbox handheld plans

Xbox gaming boss Phil Spencer has discussed the idea of a Microsoft handheld games device, and how Xbox games should play on third-party handheld hardware.

Spencer, a keen handheld PC enthusiast, told Polygon that Microsoft was discussing “different hardware form factors and things that [they] could go do” to grow the Xbox audience further.

“What should we build that will find new players?” Spencer mused. “That will allow people to play at times when they couldn’t go play [in the past]?”


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In the nearer term, Spencer said he was keen to improve the Xbox experience on existing PC handheld hardware – such as the Steam Deck, Lenovo Legion Go and Asus ROG Ally – and has a list of new features in mind.

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“I like the fact that Valve, Lenovo, and Asus went out and innovated in a new form factor,” Spencer continued. “And I will say that when I’m playing on those devices, it almost feels more like a console than a PC – nine times out of 10. The things that usually frustrate me are more Windows-based than device-based. Which is an area I feel some ownership of.

“I want to be able to log in with a controller. I’ve got my list of things we should go do.”

Spencer said he was keen to continue supporting Xbox gaming on handheld technology for developers, too – as a way to ship an ‘Xbox’ game that is playable on a range of devices that then ultimately reaches more players.

The ambition, Spencer suggested, was for game ownership to span different handheld brands, all compatible with Xbox features such as cross-save and social connectivity.

Xbox president Sarah Bond reportedly told Microsoft staff last month that “every screen is an Xbox”, as the company discussed plans to exist on multiple devices.

The idea of an Xbox handheld is nothing new. Back in 2017, Spencer said Microsoft had “roughly designed an Xbox handheld” in the past, and more recently has been spotted interacting with social media posts about handheld devices.

In the meantime, Xbox has begun launching a selection of its games on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation – with more expected to follow in the future.

But, of course, Xbox remains in the home console business still itself. It has new, under-wraps Xbox consoles launching later this year – expected to be redesigns of the existing Series X and S – before its proper next-gen Xbox launches down the line.

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