All we know about Xbox’s potential Nintendo Switch rival handheld

xbox handheld

Microsoft has several gaming devices in the oven, with one of them potentially being a handheld Xbox console that could compete with the Nintendo Switch.

The popularity of handheld gaming devices is at an all-time high. Gamers have always loved the portable experience all the way back to the original Game Boy, and the sales numbers of the Nintendo Switch show that the enthusiasm hasn’t wavered. The Switch isn’t alone anymore, though.

On the PC side of the spectrum, the Steam Deck continues to be a hit among PC gamers. While technically, the Deck can run Xbox Game Pass by installing Windows, it’s an involved process that many don’t want to take. Xbox is already moving Xbox away from physical media and converting users into Game Pass subscribers remains critical to its plans. That makes a Windows-based handheld gaming PC with direct Xbox integration a logical idea for Microsoft.

Is Xbox going to make a Nintendo Switch competitor?

Xbox has confirmed that it has new hardware in the works and Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has seemingly teased that a handheld gaming device is in the works.

While talking to Polygon, Phil Spencer discussed a handheld gaming PC.

“I like the fact that Valve, Lenovo, and Asus went out and innovated in a new form factor and I will say that when I’m playing on those devices, it almost feels more like a console than a PC…The things that usually frustrate me are more Windows-based than device-based,” Spencer said.

The head of Xbox himself is a handheld PC enthusiast and has suggestions to improve the experience. He has also been active on social media, engaging with Twitter discussions of handheld Xbox devices on multiple occasions. 

A dedicated Xbox handheld that can run Game Pass could reach many new customers. The Microsoft Surface team has been making generally good hardware for a while and is reportedly getting directly involved with Xbox hardware going forward. While the ill-fated Surface Duo didn’t catch consumers’ eyes, it showed the Microsoft Surface team is willing to tackle portable, gaming-focused hardware. Microsoft is also likely positioned to manufacture, market, and distribute a Steam Deck-like portable PC capable of running AAA games at reasonable performance levels.

An Xbox handheld with a form factor similar to the Switch could potentially be a gold mine for the company. Whether it can run games natively, stream games locally like the PlayStation Portal, or stream them through the cloud through Game Pass, there are a number of options that would make sense for both Xbox and gamers.

When is the handheld Xbox console coming out?

Xbox officially announced the release of new Xbox hardware in late 2024, though it’s unclear what this will be.

The massive 2023 Microsoft leak following its court battle with the FTC revealed details on two piece of unannounced Xbox hardware. This included an Xbox Series refresh, which some have reported to be a diskless Xbox Series X console, as well as a next-gen console which was planned at the time to release in 2028. None of these three pieces of Xbox hardware have officially been revealed, but the company confirmed that something new is coming out in 2024

Despite Xbox becoming a third-party publisher, the company has repeatedly stated it remains dedicated to hardware. Fans will find out what that renewed dedication looks like later this year.

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Written by Bilawal Bashir

Bilawal is a software engineer who loves video games, comic books, and anime. But he will never love pineapple on pizza. In over two decades of gaming, he has only broken two controllers. His work has also been featured by TheGamer and WhatIfGaming.

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