Xbox 'vision for the future' could be a Switch-like handheld and no more console exclusives

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

Microsoft and Xbox have been at the center of several game-changing rumors as of late regarding which direction the green brand is heading in. Thankfully, we shouldn't have too much longer to speculate on the brand's next steps as Xbox head Phil Spencer took to social media to confirm a business update event taking place next week. According to Spencer, here's where Microsoft intends to share more details about its 'vision for the future of Xbox.'

Xbox's exact vision remains to be seen, but the console giant has found itself amid a whirlpool of speculation of late surrounding the prospect of its exclusive first-party games going multi-platform — with Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo's Switch likely to gain access to previously Xbox only titles like "Hi-Fi Rush," "Sea of Thieves," and even Bethesda's latest epic Sci-Fi RPG "Starfield."

An end to exclusivity?

Rumors of Xbox's shift from console exclusivity were kick-started last week after new blue and red branded images were datamined from a "Hi-Fi Rush" anniversary update. The images, featuring captions of "I'm here baby!" and "Rock out! Anywhere," drove speculation that the popular Xbox exclusive title was about to make to jump to other consoles.

Before long, more rumors began to swirl that suggested that even the brand's most recent announcements like "Indiana Jones and the Great Circle" could also be among the titles expected to go multi-platform in the future.

Why the shift in Microsoft’s Xbox exclusives strategy? Well, if these reports are true, Xbox likely wants the biggest return on investment from its software strategy, profiting off of game sales on other consoles while providing Xbox owners with the fantastic value of Xbox Game Pass which offers many first-party games as part of the membership.

To many, Microsoft's actions have suggested a shift away from the hardware side of the games industry. The success of Xbox Game Pass has even led some to believe that Xbox's future lies in an app-based streaming subscription like the one to be found on the Meta Quest 3. However, while that's no doubt a strong possibility when it comes to the future of that particular service, Microsoft is reportedly far from done when it comes to delivering Xbox hardware.

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

(Image credit: Ayoub Zgaren)

The rumored Xbox handheld

According to the latest Xbox News Cast Podcast (as reported by Wccf Tech), Microsoft's next mainline Xbox console is on track for a 2026 release, but will also be partnered with a dockable handheld console similar to that of the Nintendo Switch.

The unnamed device is said to be created by the team behind Microsoft's premium Surface lineup and will focus on providing cloud gaming and native execution of Xbox games.

This brings Microsoft into the handheld gaming market for the first time beyond partnering with brands like Logitech on the G Cloud, and runs parallel to Sony's reported plans to launch a new handheld games console, potentially the PS Vita 2, within a similar time frame.

Outlook

It makes perfect sense for both the green and blue brands to dive in on the handheld action and ride the wave of its current revival. With handheld gaming PCs like the Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, and Lenovo Legion Go, all finding decent levels of success throughout 2023, the handheld gaming market hasn't seen as much action in decades.

The only real concern would be whether or not this market can maintain its momentum by the time Xbox and PlayStation's offerings are estimated to arrive in 2026 and 2027, respectively.

It's still early days for Xbox's handheld gaming aspirations, so we're unlikely to hear much, if anything, about this during next week's business update. But we should expect Xbox head Phil Spencer to address the growing rumors surrounding a potential end to Xbox-exclusive games and the company's thoughts and plans surrounding future content availability.

For breaking news and updates on everything console or handheld gaming and tech, follow Laptop Mag on TikTokTwitterFacebook, and Flipboard

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Rael Hornby
Content Editor

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.