Is Microsoft making an Xbox handheld gaming console?

Microsoft Xune 360 ConceptAs a lot of you already know, we constantly encourage our readers to send us article suggestions, constructive criticism, questions, etc. Lucky for us, a lot of them do and during the last month and a half, many people asked us the same thing – is Microsoft making a handheld gaming console? Or, is it likely that it’ll make one in the future? This question has been raised numerous times ever since 2004, when Sony first announced that it’s entering the portable gaming market. Although Microsoft didn’t make its move at the time, many people believed that the American multinational corporation is sitting this generation out to “get a lay of the land,” which is similar to what it did with the “big” gaming market and the original Xbox. So, is it possible? Will we be getting an Xbox handheld console in the near future?

Microsoft Handheld console conceptPossible? Yes. Likely? Not really, no. You see, even if Microsoft wanted to publish a handheld gaming console, even if it had one in development right now, there’s no worse time for that than now: Wii U is on the market, Sony is yet to make a wrong move with the PlayStation 4, and pressure to deliver a good piece of gaming hardware lays heavy on Microsoft. As PS4 is hitting the shelves this holiday season, it’s expected that Microsoft has to at least announce the X720, or whatever it’s going to be called by the end of the year. Announcing or publishing a separate piece of gaming hardware, even if it is for a different market would unnecessarily steal the spotlight from the next-gen Xbox, as if it’s not already pretty obvious that the chances of Microsoft surpassing what Sony is offering with the PS4 are slim.

Xbox Elite 1080 Portable gaming handheld console conceptMoreover, the situation on the handheld gaming market is not too all milk and honey either: even though Sony managed to sell almost 80 millions units of PlayStation Portable since 2004, PS Vita is doing much, much worse after its sixteen months on the market, and the Nintendo 3DS handheld console wouldn’t be doing much better if it wasn’t for a brave decision from Nintendo to significantly cut its price down (by 32%) in July of 2011. As if that’s not enough, Nvidia is soon launching the Project Shield, and companies like Archos, Wikipad, and MOGA are also trying to take over bits and pieces of the handheld market. In overall, the portable gaming market is a huge mess at the moment and it’s unclear whether mobile devices will completely take over the portable gaming industry or not, not to mention the divided opinions about the mobile game business models, price ranges, and many other stuff.

Furthermore, Microsoft itself stated that Windows Phone 8 is their go-to platform for portable gaming experiences. A year ago, one of their representatives stated the following:

Today, Xbox Live is available on Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and Windows 8, offering a range of games with something for everyone across these devices… Our goal is to create one seamless Xbox Live service across various platforms, providing on-the-go access to your favorite games and Xbox LIVE experiences.

Also, before the aforementioned 3DS’s price drop, Microsoft’s ex-Xbox COO Dennis Durkin criticized their Japanese competitors for even trying to bother with the portable gaming market. Here’s what he had to say regarding the PS Vita and 3DS:

I’m not sure I would want to be launching a dedicated portable device right now into that market, I think the DS – if you look at the 3DS, certainly versus people’s expectations it’s not been as successful as people would have thought. So that’s a very crowded market and a very, very red ocean right now with a lot of change happening. So I’m not sure it’s [a good idea]. You only have a certain number of bets you can make as a company and you have to decide what you want to put your wood behind and I’m just not sure that that’s a place that I would put mine.

So, although Microsoft is certainly trying to get a piece of the mobile gaming cake (mostly by using the Xbox LIVE experience as a selling-point), they seem unimpressed with the dedicated handheld gaming devices. This alone is enough to conclude that they won’t be launching anything of the sort now or ever, but along with everything we mentioned above, it’s fair to say that anyone hoping for an Xbox handheld console is in for a bitter disappointment.

What do you think? Is another handheld gaming console really something that we need at the moment? Is Microsoft wrong not consider making one? Would you buy a portable Xbox?