Nimbly dodging confirmation of a rumored Xbox handheld, Phil Spencer says he's excited about 'the work that the team is doing around different form factors'

A phone with an Xbox logo reflected in a looming laptop monitor.
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Since the massive leak of Xbox's internal roadmap in September 2023, rumors have circulated about the possibility of a forthcoming Xbox handheld from Microsoft. Lately, some of the blame for those rumors belongs to Phil Spencer himself. In an interview during IGN Live, after evading questions about recent studio closures, Spencer indicated Microsoft is doing something related to "different form factors" for Xbox, continuing his months-long streak of being delicately vague on the subject.

"I think we should have a handheld, too," Spencer said when asked about the rumored Xbox handheld. "The future for us in hardware is pretty awesome. The work that the team is doing around different form factors, different ways to play, I'm incredibly excited about." Pressed further about whether an Xbox handheld would—purely hypothetically, mind you—be a cloud-based device or running games locally, Spencer said that "I think being able to play games locally is really important."

While we can't be certain that there's something to read between those lines, they're lines that Spencer's been leaving for a few months now. Confronted in a February interview with The Verge about his recent spree of liking handheld-related tweets, Spencer said, "When I look at Steam Deck and the ROG and my Legion Go, I'm a big fan of that space."

Alongside his repeated handheld enthusiasm, Spencer's also identified areas for potential improvement in portable PC gaming, seemingly chafing against how Windows handles on a handheld device's smaller screen. "The things that usually frustrate me are more Windows-based than device-based," Spencer said at GDC in March, continuing to say that "I want my Lenovo Legion Go to feel like an Xbox." To me, that sounds like Spencer's pining for something that would do for Windows what the Steam Deck does with Linux.

Taken in total, Spencer's statements don't add up to an official confirmation that Microsoft's got a handheld in the works. But for the conspiratorially-minded, if that handheld did exist, there's enough food for thought to craft a compelling hypothesis about what it would be like: probably something running games locally, with a bespoke, Steam Deck-style UI to streamline whatever Windows software might be running behind the scenes. Only time will tell, assuming Spencer doesn't first.

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.