"We’re kind of learning from what Nintendo has done over the years with Switch... I’m a big fan of that space.": Xbox CEO hints at work on handheld gaming devices

Xbox Waves, an Xbox handheld gaming concept render by CAD artist Ayoub Zgaren
(Image credit: Ayoub Zgaren)

During a recent interview with The Verge, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer said he was a "Big fan of handhelds," and we just reported on the possibility of a Switch-like handheld device from Xbox last week. Coincidence? Probably, but we're still hopeful that an Xbox handheld is in the works.

Spencer went on to say that Xbox is "Kind of learning from what Nintendo has done over the years with the Switch," noting "They've been fantastic with that." Perhaps Xbox is passively "learning" from Nintendo by analyzing its past moves, or maybe it's more of an active "learning" process for an Xbox handheld currently in development.

Xbox hardware with "Unique aspects" is on the horizon

This small hint of conversation on handhelds between Spencer and Verge editor Tom Warren started with a question about the Xbox Series X (Brooklin) and Xbox Series S (Ellewood). Spencer mentioned that new console and controller options will arrive this holiday season before Warren asked whether these were "The leaked refreshed models that we saw in the FTC documents?"

Spencer essentially had no comment, laughing and saying "I don't know about any leaks. I don't know what you're talking about." This isn't true, as he tweeted shortly after the leaks that it was "Hard to see [his] team's work shared in this way," but this was a subtle way of shutting down that particular question.

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Warren adjusted the question slightly, explaining that Spencer "Said that they were old plans" and asking "What's happening there, is that what you're teasing?" To this, Spencer said that the team is "Really thinking about creating hardware that sells to gamers because of the unique aspects of the hardware."

Our immediate thought, and Warren's too, was handhelds — the epitome of unique gaming hardware. When asked about whether future hardware included a handheld, Spencer said, "I'm a big fan, but nothing to announce." 

If he had left it at that, the possibility of an Xbox handheld wouldn't seem as probable. But he went on to explain that he assesses the success of the Xbox platform by "How many players there are" and "How many hours get played," and that a lot of what might restrict playtime is not having easy access to the games you want to play.

Xbox Waves, an Xbox handheld gaming concept render by CAD artist Ayoub Zgaren

(Image credit: Ayoub Zgaren)

Then, he praised Nintendo for its work with the Switch over the years and said that they're learning from what Nintendo has done up to this point. He mentioned the Steam Deck, ROG Ally, and Legion Go handhelds, and talked about how "One of the weak points in the experience on a ROG or the Lenovo [Legion Go] is Windows."

It's Spencer's job to look at other big gaming brands and companies to see what the competition is doing and stay up to date with what consumers currently want. Which, at this present moment in time, seems to be handheld consoles. However, his lengthy explanation to a simple question implies that handhelds may in fact have a spot on Xbox's current roadmap.

Of course, we'll have to wait to see whether Spencer is just crushing on handhelds or hinting at something major in Xbox's future.

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