Why Should Xbox Create a Handheld Similar to the Switch and Steam Deck?

Why Should Xbox Create a Handheld Similar to the Switch and Steam Deck?

Xbox has been noticeably absent from one particular wing of the video game world, as Microsoft has seemingly never come close to launching its own handheld gaming device. That fact has the company standing alone when talking about the big three in the console gaming world. Nintendo, of course, has its Nintendo Switch. Sony has had a number of different handheld devices, with its most recent being the PS Vita. To be fair, an argument can be made that Microsoft doesn’t need to launch its own handheld device considering all the different platforms and all the different games users can play xCloud on these days. However, with the announcement of both the Switch OLED and Valve’s Steam Deck, it might be time for an Xbox-centric handheld console to come to the market.

Now that the Steam Deck and Switch OLED are leading a resurgence of handheld gaming devices, Xbox should launch its own entry into the market.

One of the biggest reasons that Xbox might want to launch its own handheld is simply to get a piece of that market. With Valve announcing its presence in that space with apparent authority, there is also the chance that Microsoft could lose some gaming ground to the Steam Deck. After all, one of the big draws of the xCloud is that people can play select PC games on the go. Rather than an Xbox handheld being something that runs parallel to xCloud, a handheld console could be seen as the next step of “play anywhere” for Microsoft.

Xbox On The Go Without The Internet
steam-deck in someone’s hands
While xCloud famously allows players to use its service on basically every gaming platform, there is a big catch. Users need to either have an internet or cellular connection. In other words, “play anywhere” means “play anywhere someone is connected.” This is both the drawback of xCloud and Stadia in a space where there aren’t a ton of other drawbacks to the services. In a world where people are often connected everywhere they go, the issue has become less pressing. However, there are still places and people that can’t be expected to be online all the time. There’s also the fact that not everyone has unlimited data on their phones or mobile devices. However, a handheld device where users can actually download games would solve that problem once and for all.

One of the big draws of these handheld devices is obviously that they really are “play anywhere.” The Steam Deck allows players to download their PC games in their Steam library and play them on the go, and the same can be said for the Nintendo Switch. While the PS Vita has been abandoned for the most part, it does work this way as well. This has been a pre-requisite because it’s a safe bet that no one wants a device that can’t be played when they’re on an airplane, or just on the go. The draw of these handheld devices is all about being able to play without needing to use bandwidth or data. So far, Xbox doesn’t offer that option. If Microsoft does eventually launch one of these devices on its own, it would likely offer something that could go alongside xCloud rather than something that actually runs xCloud.

Xbox GamePass Offers Huge Library With No Additional Purchase

One of the most obvious drawbacks of the Steam Deck is that there aren’t any subscriptions services directly tied to it. While users can apparently play any game that is in their regular Steam library, in order to add games, they have to purchase them. While the Switch offers the Nintendo Online catalog, any remotely new games have to be purchased by its users. That’s certainly not a problem for the most dedicated gamers, but the Steam Deck seems to be specifically built for people who may not have a PC that can play some of the bigger games. As such, those people aren’t necessarily going to have a vast library of things to play. The idea of having a way to populate the handheld library without spending a ton of extra money is one reason why it seems like a no-brainer that Epic will eventually launch a direct competitor to the Steam Deck.

With Xbox Game Pass, the upside is fairly obvious when it comes to a handheld device. Subscribers would have a catalog of games so massive that they could jump into the service having never actually owned an Xbox console. That could become a very big draw for Microsoft, considering how many times Phil Spencer and others have talked about inclusiveness and drawing more gamers to the company by using multiple platforms. Users being able to download any Game Pass game and play it on their handheld comes with a major positive. “Play anywhere” takes on a different meaning when users can play a game on their handheld if they are out and about, come home, and sync their game progress to the cloud to pick up where they left off. They could then continue their playthrough on their PC, Xbox One, or Xbox Series X. In essence, Xbox would be beating Stadia and Switch at its own game.

The Market And Framework Is There For Xbox Handheld
steam-deck-case
The Steam Deck has proven incredibly popular since it was first announced. If Microsoft has been holding off on its own handheld because it didn’t believe there was a market, the reserve numbers for Valve’s device could punch a hole in those worries. It helps that it certainly doesn’t seem as though Microsoft would have to build this thing from the ground up, as there would be no need to reinvent the wheel. Once media outlets started getting their hands on the Steam Deck, it didn’t take long at all to figure out that the device’s operating system could be wiped and replaced with the Windows OS. If a device that wasn’t meant to run a certain operating system can do so without problems, it’s not a leap to think that it would be easy to make one geared for an Xbox OS. As far as what the device would look like, the Steam Deck and Switch are certainly not identical, but there also is not much difference in their designs. In turn, Xbox wouldn’t need to start from scratch, as they could give their handheld a similar look. The models are out there that would allow the company to launch its own handheld, and it would have a real shot of dominating the market if done right.

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