I've always loved handheld gaming.
From the days of the Game Boy Pocket to the present day, when I just got my new Nintendo Switch, I enjoy being able to play games whenever and wherever I am. I'm not only a Nintendo loyalist, either; I have both of Sony's portable efforts, too, and I still play games on one of them.
But I don't have a portable Xbox, and that makes me sad.
The Nintendo Switch isn't a direct competitor to the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 (PS4). That much is blindingly obvious. What it is, though, is a much better alternative to playing games on a phone or tablet, at least if you hate the freemium dominated world we now inhabit. And I do.
I want to pay money to play a great game. That's not too much to ask, right?
I'm a fairly platform-agnostic person, and I now have the three most current consoles, but Xbox is still my favorite. The ecosystem is solid, and neither Sony nor Nintendo are doing anything that's remotely as exciting as what's coming from Xbox (at least not that we know of). But when I leave the house, my Xbox experience ends unless I pack my gaming laptop.
Xbox has never been what it could have when it comes to gaming on the go. Xbox Live integration for Windows mobile games is terrific, but mostly you're still limited to smartphone-class games. Those don't excite me, with the exception of games like Halo: Spartan Strike. What excites me is the thought of playing Skyrim on something that's no bigger than a tablet.
A missed opportunity for Microsoft
Microsoft, more than any other company making consoles, has all the pieces it needs to make this happen. But here we are, and it's probably never going to change. Again, that makes me sad. But who knows? There could be an end-game somewhere.
Our own Jez Corden recently shared some thoughts on how Beam could become part of that:
That is a tantalizing prospect. Streaming games over the web isn't a new idea, and it's been tried by others with varying degrees of success. Sony has PlayStation Now which works (mostly), and NVIDIA has GeForce Now which lets you play full PC games on devices that wouldn't normally support them.
Instead of a portable console, could Microsoft fill the void and keep me — and no doubt many others — happy by letting us play proper Xbox console games anywhere we have a data connection? I'm all for that idea.
The beauty of Nintendo Switch is that while it falls short of raw power compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, the games you'll be able to play on it are going to be of a higher caliber than most mobile titles. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is superb, and it's absolutely enormous. I wouldn't even entertain playing such a game on a phone or tablet with touchscreen controls. You also have the benefit of a full, integrated controller.
I want to believe that somewhere deep within Redmond, Microsoft has a plan. There's so much that could be done, and yet Nintendo is still the only company to really grab any success in the handheld console space. 3DS games aren't exactly high-res blockbusters, but those little folding consoles are everywhere. Eventually, I'm sure the Switch will see a similar success.
But what I really want is an Xbox Pocket. How about you? You with me?
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine