Handheld gaming devices became big hits in the late 80s and throughout the 90s and 2000s, but the market for them was largely deadlocked after most viewers moved to home consoles or desktop gaming computers. However, with the success of the industry -dominating Nintendo Switch (as well as previous 3DS handsets), the rise of mobile gaming on smartphones, and the expansion of cloud game streaming services, gaming on handheld devices became popular again. But will some of the biggest names in the industry move to capitalization?
With the announcement of the Steam Deck mobile handheld gaming PC, Valve has (surprisingly) entered the mobile gaming market and may have beaten Nintendo on its own games thanks to the device’s impressive specifications and versatility. But what about the Xbox and PlayStation – what are Microsoft and Sony going to do to get the fun at hand? Here’s an overview of what both companies can (and should) do to invest in the handheld game going forward.
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Xbox: Streaming games, rival ‘Xboy’ Switch
Microsoft is ready to succeed, but why not make “Xboy”?
Right outside the door, Microsoft is poised to succeed in the handheld gaming space thanks to its powerful and advanced Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) service, available through an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The Xbox Cloud Gaming game library includes many of the best and steadily growing Xbox games, and recently, Microsoft even upgraded the service with custom Xbox Series X server blades for top-notch speed, performance, and visual loading. Xbox Cloud Gaming is also more available than ever before, as Android, iOS, MacOS, and Windows 10 users can access it by heading to xbox.com/play in a web browser (Android users also have the option to use the official Xbox Game Pass App). Since Windows 10 (or Windows 11) can be installed on the Steam Deck, users can also enjoy Xbox Cloud Gaming on the device.
Something the Xbox lacks at the moment is a dedicated handheld device that can compete with the Nintendo Switch. My colleague Daniel Rubino has written about why there’s no reason for Microsoft not to make the “Xboy” to rival the Nintendo Switch, and I totally agree with him – especially now that Xbox Game Pass has become a global hit and Xbox Cloud Gaming has become a very subtle experience and polished. Imagine an “Xboy” with a Steam Deck level specification that can be used to play Xbox Game Pass titles natively or stream them through Xbox Cloud Gaming. The potential here is no less impressive, and Microsoft would be foolish not to make a handheld device like this.
Sony: Restart PS Vita, upgrade PS Now
Sony must find a place in the handheld gaming market, and can only be blamed.
Compared to Microsoft, Sony has to make a decision if it wants to compete seriously in the handheld gaming space. Sony can only be blamed for not being present in this market, as it failed to support and maintain the PlayStation Vita project properly from 2012. Instead of duplicating and making improvements on the Vita like Nintendo did with its 3DS when initial sales were low, Sony basically abandoned its grip and letting it die when it doesn’t work (“Vita” is Latin for “life,” which is a delicious irony in this case). While there is a vague library of games and expensive exclusive memory cards, many Vita fans swear by the design and ergonomics of the device. If Sony really believed more in its own machines, the Vita would have succeeded.
Sony can’t go back in time and fix that mistake now, but it does happen can revive the PS Vita by developing a modern version or using what was learned from the Vita as the basis for a completely new handheld. If Sony provides strong specs and support for the PlayStation Now, the company will definitely re -enter the mobile gaming market.
Speaking of PS Now, Sony could also make some efforts to expand its game streaming service to handheld platforms. As of now, PS Now is only supported on PS4, PS5, and Windows PCs. By removing the page from the Xbox Cloud Gaming playbook and making PS Now available on iOS, Android, and MacOS, Sony will get the answer for Microsoft game streaming.
Both Microsoft and Sony have an excellent opportunity to expand into the handheld gaming market, and with Nintendo and Valve focusing a lot on space, I hope the other two gaming juggernauts in the industry follow suit. Seeing “Xboy” made is definitely great, and even sweeter when Sony revives the PS Vita project. The global silicon shortage affecting tech companies around the world will likely delay any attempt to make a device like this, but when it finally passes, I can’t wait to see what Microsoft and Sony have for mobile gaming.
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