Microsoft Gaming CEO: “I think we should have a handheld, too”

Enlarge / The “Xbox Series V” was a social media hoax, but the idea of a portable Xbox seems to still have legs inside Microsoft.

The extremely long-standing rumors regarding Microsoft making a portable game console got a strong shot in the arm over the weekend from none other than Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. Speaking on stage as part of an IGN Live interview, Spencer said directly that “I think we should have a handheld, too.”

The comment stops just short of an official announcement that Microsoft is actively working on portable gaming hardware for the first time. But if anyone is in a position to make an “I think we should…” into an operational reality, it’s Spencer.

“The future for us in hardware is pretty awesome,” Spencer continued during the IGN presentation. “And the work that the team is doing around different form factors, different ways to play, I’m incredibly excited about it.”

Previous insider reports suggested that Microsoft had at one point prototyped a cloud-focused Xbox handheld sporting a new “lightweight version” of the Xbox UI. Speaking to IGN, though, Spencer suggested any potential portable Xbox would not be a modified version of the streaming-only PlayStation Portal.

“I like my ROG Ally, my Lenovo Legion Go, my Steam Deck,” Spencer said. “I think being able to play games locally is really important.”

We’ve heard it before?

If Spencer’s mention of “different form factors” sounds familiar, that’s probably because he said something almost identical back in February when he told Bloomberg that he “get[s] excited about different form factors that allow people to play in different places.” Around the same time, Spencer told the Verge that he was looking at unorthodox ways that Xbox could potentially capture more “player hours,” saying:

So, OK, what keeps people from playing certain hours? Well there’s some sleep, school, and kind of normal life, but some of it is just access. Do I have access to the games that I want to play right now? Obviously we’re kind of learning from what Nintendo has done over the years with Switch, they’ve been fantastic with that. So when I look at Steam Deck and the ROG and my Legion Go, I’m a big fan of that space.

A portable Xbox would compete pretty directly with Microsoft's own mobile game streaming efforts.
Enlarge / A portable Xbox would compete pretty directly with Microsoft’s own mobile game streaming efforts.


Comments like these are a big change from internal Microsoft documents that leaked last September, which listed an Xbox portable as a “current gap in FY23” that is “not in scope for 1st party” (alongside potential products like a mobile controller, earbuds, and a media remote). But Spencer was quick to call that leak “outdated” at the time, so it might not be the last word on Microsoft’s portable gaming plans.

In 2020, former Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach said that his tenure—which ended in 2010—included “at least three groups that presented portable Xbox presentations… All three times, we decided not to do it.” That feels like ancient history, though, in a world where everyone and their corporate subsidiary is looking to draft off the market success of the Steam Deck. And if Spencer gets his heart’s deepest wish, it seems like Microsoft might be joining them before too long.

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