Age of Mythology: Retold launches for PC and Xbox on the same day | Digital Trends
Microsoft and World’s Edge gave us our first glimpse of its upcoming remaster of real-time strategy game Age of Mythology: Retold during Friday’s New Year, New Age livestream. They also confirmed that it will launch on PC and Xbox later this year.
Age of Mythology: Retold’s segment of the livestream began with Art Director Melinda Rose introducing the gameand teasing that it will contain all-new 3D character models, animation, textures, and UI. Rose also highlighted the details of the character models for units like Medusa, Pegasus, and Cerberus. Each time players upgrade a unit, their design will change slightly. We then got a look at its key art, as well as confirmation that Age of Mythology: Retold will be released later this year. It will launch on both PC and Xbox at the same time and is the first World’s Edge game to do so.
Age of Mythology: Retold is a remaster of the 2002 fantasy RTS Age of Empire spinoff by Ensemble Studios. It was first teased in October 2022 by Microsoft, but we hadn’t heard much about it since then. Over the past several years, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to revitalize Age of Empires with several remasters, console ports, and the release of Age of Empires IV.
During this livestream, World’s Edge revealed that this has allowed the series to surpass over 50 million players. Age of Mythology: Retold is aimed at adding to that number, as are other things revealed during the New Year, New Age livesteam, like the Victors and Vanquished expansion for Age of Empires II, new civilizations for Age of Empires III, a spring update for Age of Empires IV, and Age of Empires Mobile.
Age of Mythology: Untold launches on PC and Xbox later in 2024. Like all first-party Microsoft games, it will be on Xbox Game Pass from day one as well.
Sea of Thieves is the fourth confirmed Xbox game to come to PS5 | Digital Trends
True current-gen console exclusives have been few and far between this generation. Over two years in, even great games like Halo Infinite and God of War: Ragnarök are still shackled to the consoles that came before the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S. While they still look fantastic and benefit from better load times and DualSense gimmicks, there haven’t been enough exclusives to give this new console generation a true identity just yet. That’s going to be one of the most important tasks for Microsoft and Sony in 2023. This year, we’ll see a much larger number of PS5 and Xbox Series X/S exclusives, especially from first-party studios. Games like Forspoken, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Forza Motorsport, and Starfield will be just some of the games this year that will demonstrate what exactly a ninth-generation console game feels and looks like. That means that the stakes are high for this year’s biggest releases, as they need to prove that the games industry hasn’t plateaued. A slow but steady start It’s hard to believe we’re already over two years into this new console generation, considering that we’re still seeing high-profile games launching on old platforms. That looks like it will change this year, though, as more games will release exclusively for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S to give those consoles more of an identity. Still, that’s taken more time than it did for the eighth generation of game consoles: the PS4 and Xbox One. Even the Xbox One, for all its faults at release, had games like Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, and Ryse: Son of Rome early on to show what Microsoft wanted that new generation of games to look like. They did so through both impressive visuals for their time and via Xbox One gimmicks like SmartGlass and Kinect. We haven’t seen that as much with the Xbox Series X/S because early-generation games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 were intentionally cross-gen, and its more ambitious exclusives have suffered delays. On the PlayStation front, the PS4 admittedly took a few years to get going on the exclusives front. Games like Infamous Second Son, Driveclub, and Bloodborne eventually impressed, though, and fantastic exclusives were consistently launching throughout each year by 2017. The PS5 is following a similar cadence, as Astro’s Playroom remains an outstanding PS5 and DualSense showcase, while Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, and The Last of Us Part 1 show what the system is capable of.
Still, last year’s two biggest PlayStation Studios releases, Horizon Forbidden West and God of War: Ragnarök, came out on PS4 and still felt “last-gen” as a result. One can’t help but think what both games could have done had they launched solely on PS5. That’s a question I hope to see answered more firmly over the next 12 months. The importance of 2023 console exclusives As we enter the PS5’s third year, its upcoming exclusives will be some of the most pivotal on the system. Forspoken could demonstrate some impressive visual effects early on, but Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is in an even more crucial position. It will be the first sequel to a PS4-era hit that isn’t tied to the PS4. The PS5’s high frame rate and adaptive triggers already enhance Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Spider-Man: Remastered when played on PS5. I’m intrigued to see how Insomniac Games can push the visuals further, make more parts of New York City explorable, and take swinging around as the Spider-Men even further on PS5. Hopefully, any other PS5 exclusives launching this year will do similar things.
One of the worst-kept secrets in gaming is now official. Former Xbox exclusive Hi-Fi Rush is coming to PS5 on March 19. Many expected the announcement to come during Wednesday’s Nintendo Direct, which focused on third-party games, but Bethesda confirmed the news a few hours later.
It emerged during the Direct that Pentiment and Grounded were Switch-bound. Both titles are also coming to PS4 and PS5 on February 22 and April 16, respectively. Grounded will have cross-play support between Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Meanwhile, Microsoft revealed that the fourth game making the jump to other platforms is Sea of Thieves, which is coming to PS5 on April 30. It will support cross-play between PS5, Xbox and PC.
Hi-Fi Rush debuted in early 2023 when Microsoft announced and released the game on Xbox and PC on the same day. The rhythm-based beat-’em-up quickly found a fan base in large part thanks to its killer visuals and soundtrack — the fact it was immediately available on Game Pass at no extra cost helped too.
The PS5 version will include all content, including the two extra modes from the Arcade Challenge update. A digital deluxe edition will include more cosmetics and grant you additional Gears to splurge on upgrades.
Perhaps in line with that strategy, Xbox leaders recently confirmed rumors that they were going to release some more first party games on “the other consoles.” They revealed earlier this month that four games would cross the great divide but declined to mention their titles, other than to confirm Starfield and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle would not be among them.
The four games have all been out on Xbox and PC for at least a year and have reached their “full potential” on those platforms, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said. Two (Grounded and Sea of Thieves) are community-driven/multiplayer games. The others are “smaller games that were never really meant to be built as kind of platform exclusives.” Hi-Fi Rush fits in the latter category, given that it was in development long before Microsoft bought ZeniMax Media, the parent of both studio Tango Gameworks and publisher Bethesda Softworks.
Bethesda finally confirms that Hi-Fi Rush is coming to PS5 | Digital Trends
Microsoft and Bethesda finally confirmed that Hi-Fi Rush is going multiplatform. In particular, it was announced that the rhythm action game is coming to the PS5 next month.
Rumors of Hi-Fi Rush going multiplatform began in January, spurring some discourse about a change in Microsoft’s first-party strategy. Although Xbox eventually addressed the concerns in a February 15 podcast, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer would not say then if Hi-Fi Rush was one of the games; instead, he only teased that four games were going multiplatform and that the announcements were coming soon. During the Nintendo Direct: Partner Showcase this morning, we learned that Obsidian Entertainment’s Pentiment and Grounded were coming to Nintendo Switch on February 22 and April 16, respectively.
Later in the day, a video confirming that Hi-Fi Rush would launch for PS5 on March 18 was posted by Bethesda LATAM before being quickly switched to private. For those unfamiliar with Hi-Fi Rush, it was first released in January 2023 for PC and Xbox Series X/S. It’s an action-rhythm game inspired by titles like Devil May Cry, where players must fight to the beat of the game’s soundtracks. We adored the game following its surprise launch, giving it four-and-a-half stars in our review and calling it “a new blueprint for rhythm-action games.”
The PS5 version of the game appears to be a complete version that includes all post-launch content for Hi-Fi Rush. The full game is available now for PC and Xbox Series X/S and, if what this now-private video claims was accurate, it arrives on PS5 on March 18.
Everything announced at Nintendo Direct Partner Showcase | Digital Trends
Nintendo Direct: Partner Showcase 2.21.2024
It’s become a bit of a tradition for Nintendo to drop a Direct presentation every February. That held up this year, but not in the way that some fans expected. Rather than dropping a 40+ minute presentation highlighting upcoming first-party games, Nintendo released a more casual Partner Showcase today. The 25-minute video, which did not air live, instead highlighted upcoming third-party releases.
While it was certainly a “B show” by Nintendo standards, the presentation still contained some notable tidbits. It finally gave us a look at some of the Xbox games coming to other platforms, as well as showing off a new complete edition of Shin Megami Tensei V and a new Endless Ocean game. If you don’t feel like scrubbing through the show for details, here’s everything that was announced in Nintendo’s Partner Showcase.
Pentiment, Grounded jump from Xbox to Switch
After weeks of speculation and rumor, we finally got some truth to Xbox’s multi-platform plans. Both Grounded and Pentimentare coming to Nintendo Switch. Had that announcement dropped before Xbox’s Business Update last week, it would have been bombshell news. Instead, it dropped as a bit of a foregone conclusion, taking a bit of bite out of the announcement. Even so, it marks a major moment for Xbox as it begins to experiment with traditional console exclusivity. Grounded is coming to Switch on April 16, while Pentiment will launch tomorrow.
Endless Ocean makes a surprise return
Endless Ocean Luminous – Announcement Trailer – Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Wii cult classic Endless Ocean is getting a new installment on Switch. Endless Ocean: Luminous is a new underwater exploration game that features 30-player online play. A relaxing trailer showed off divers swimming underwater, cataloguing fish, and sharing their discoveries with other players. Endless Ocean: Luminous launches on May 2 for Switch and pre-orders are open today.
Atlus serves up Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance
After receiving a rating in South Korea this week, we got official confirmation that Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is Switch bound. It’s essentially a “complete edition” of the 2021 RPG, which will add new content. While the trailer didn’t go into too much detail on what’s included, it confirmed that it’ll launch on June 21.
Epic Mickey Rebrushed brings back a Disney classic
In one of the show’s true surprises, 2010’s Epic Mickey for the Nintendo Wii is getting a remaster. Dubbed Epic Mickey Rebrushed, Nintendo describes the release as a faithful remake of the original with improved graphics. Its certainly looking like a visual improvement so far based on its trailer, and we won’t need to wait too long to see it in action. Epic Mickey Rebrushed is set to launch this year.
Star Wars: Battlefront is making a nostalgic return
If you’re a fan of the original Star Wars: Battlefront games, you’re in luck. Nintendo Switch owners are getting ports of the series’ first two games in the form of Star Wars: Battlefront Classic Collection. The package will include online play, 64-player battles, and even some new characters and maps. It’ll hit Switch’s eShop on March 14.
Ender Lilies sequel Ender Magnolia: Bloom in the Mist is coming this year.
Puzzle game Arranger: A Role-Playing Adventure is coming this summer.
Unicorn Overlord got a new trailer ahead of its March release date. A demo is out today.
The first Monster Hunter Stories is getting an HD Switch port with full voice acting.
South Park: Snow Day got a new gameplay overview trailer.
Sword Art Online: Fractured Daydream will bring 20-player co-op this year.
Gundam Breaker 4 is coming to this year.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble brings a 16 player online mode on June 25.
World of Goo 2 will launch as a Switch console exclusive on May 23.
Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time is coming on October 10.
Crustacean Soulslike Another Crab’s Treasure got an April 25 release date.
Penny’s Big Breakaway is available on Switch right now.
Suika Game is getting a paid multiplayer DLC today.
The Devolver-published Pepper Grinder launches on March 28 and a demo is out today.
Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! comes to Switch today.
A sizzle reel showed off upcoming games like Tales of Kenzera: Zau.
Switch Online is getting a handful of classic Rare games, including Blast Corps.
Grounded and Pentiment are coming to Nintendo Switch | Digital Trends
During Wednesday’s Nintendo Direct: Partner Showcase, we learned about two of the Xbox Game Studios titles that are going multiplatform. The games in question are Obsidian Entertainment’s Grounded and Pentiment, and the latter will launch tomorrow on Nintendo Switch.
Earlier this year, various leaks and rumors suggested that first-party Xbox exclusives like Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment could make their way over to competing platforms. Microsoft finally addressed the rumors on February 15, confirming that it planned to bring four of its first-party games to non-Xbox platforms over the course of 2024. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer wouldn’t say what any of the specific games were at the time, though, stating that “the teams that are building those games have announced plans that are not too far away.” It’s now clear that Spencer was partially referring to this Nintendo Direct, as two of the games showed up here.
If you aren’t familiar with these titles, here’s the rundown: Grounded is a 2022 survival crafting game where players control kids who were shrunk down in size and are trying to survive in a backyard. It launches for Nintendo Switch on April 16, and was the first announcement of the show. During a sizzle reel at the end of the show, we learned that Pentiment is launching on Nintendo’s hybrid console tomorrow. First released for PC and Xbox Series X/S in 2022, Pentiment is a historical narrative adventure title and yet another solid Xbox-published title, with Digital Trends’ four-star review calling it “a wonderful game that tells a thematically poignant story that anyone who likes to create will empathize with.”
Pentiment launches for Nintendo Switch tomorrow, February 22. Grounded comes to the system on April 16.
Helldivers 2 isn’t on Game Pass, but these great alternatives are | Digital Trends
Helldivers 2 is a PlayStation console exclusive, so it’s not available on Xbox Series X or S. Not only has Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer voiced his disappointment in this, but so have many Helldivers 2 players, who are asking for more backup in the fight against the Terminids and Automatons.
If you don’t own a PS5 or a good enough gaming PC to run Helldivers 2, you might be feeling a bit left out. But if you’re in the mood for a sci-fi or co-op game, there are plenty of entertaining alternate options available on Xbox Game Pass. While Xbox players can’t yet die for Super Earth, they can still have a great time fighting and dying in any of these Xbox Game Pass games that are playable on console.
Deep Rock Galactic
If you specifically want another sci-fi co-op game, there are a couple of different options for you on Xbox Game Pass. First, we have Deep Rock Galactic, a co-op shooter about space dwarves who mine resources. In it, you go on missions to caves, gather resources and complete objectives, and then fight to extract with all your gathered resources. While it’s a bit different from Helldivers 2 with its first-person perspective and emphasis on mining, its core gameplay loop actually isn’t too far off from that game. It can offer you plenty of nail-biting emergent moments that you and your friends will be talking about weeks after the fact, which is a hallmark of a fantastic co-op game.
Helldivers 2 finally gives PlayStation a console-exclusive answer to Xbox’s Gears of War, its flagship co-op third-person shooter franchise. Obviously, that also means that playing Gears 5is a good Xbox Game Pass alternative. If you’re missing the single-player or narrative element from Helldivers 2, Gears 5 features a full campaign that will definitely scratch that itch. And if some co-op action is all you want, The Coalition’s game has a cooperative horde mode, as well as Escape, a mission-based mode more similar to the experience that Helldivers 2 provides. If Sony plans to never bring Helldivers 2 to Xbox, then it’s smart for Xbox players to show Microsoft we want more of the closest first-party franchise to Helldivers that it can offer.
A sleeper hit from 2023, Remnant II is the co-op shooter to play if you enjoy the brutally difficult nature of Helldivers 2. It’s a looter shooter that finds a way to incorporate Soulslike elements into its gunplay. Like Helldivers 2 on harder difficulties, Remnant II can be crushingly difficult sometimes, but that makes success all the more satisfying. Its roguelike setup and procedural generation systems also mean each person’s campaign is different, adding to Remnant II’s replay factor and enabling some really memorable moments in co-op. Remnant II also features the best boss fights I’ve encountered in a co-op game.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
If mowing through hordes of enemies is the action from Helldivers 2 that you feel like you’re missing on Xbox, then I’d recommend Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. This four-player co-op, first-person shooter is brutally satisfying to play and emphasizes melee a lot more than the other games on this list. Like Helldivers 2, it understands that there’s simple fun to be had in sci-fi shooter power fantasy, but also isn’t afraid to make things a lot more difficult to force a crushing defeat or exhilarating win.
Back 4 Blood
Back 4 Blood’s zombie premise and mission-based setup are very different from what Helldivers 2 offers, but this is a personal co-op favorite of mine. It is made by Turtle Rock, the same studio behind the Left 4 Dead games, and features some of the best cooperative mission and level design I’ve seen in this wave of AAA shooters. Back 4 Blood’s card system also can drastically alter the difficulty and tools at players’ disposal from run to run, making for a cooperative experience that can be just as unpredictable as Helldivers 2’s missions. Back 4 Blood is a couple of years old and content complete now, so you don’t have to worry about a tail of live service support or overcrowded servers anymore.
While you can annihilate bugs and Terminator-style robots in Helldivers 2, you can’t kill dinosaurs. That’s the unique power fantasy that Capcom’s underrated 2023 PvPvE shooter Exoprimaloffers. Its exosuit hook offers the gameplay variety of a hero shooter, the hordes of dinosaurs it sometimes throws at players are technically impressive, and it even offers a wildly innovative approach to multiplayer storytelling that I wish more games like Helldivers 2 copied. Its main mode also adds PvP showdowns at the end of a match, which is something you can’t get from Helldivers 2. While Exoprimal flew under the radar after its release last July, I’d recommend you check it out on Xbox Game Pass now if you’re getting antsy over not being able to play Helldivers 2.
Xbox Series X Presidents’ Day Deals: Consoles, Games & More | Digital Trends
Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is a powerful machine with a healthy library of games and a wide range of accessories. If you want to enjoy discounts in your investments in the console, this year’s Presidents’ Day deals is the perfect opportunity. The offers from the various retailers participating in the sale are already online, and while they’re expected to last through the end of the holiday, it’s highly recommended that you make your purchases as soon as possible because we’re not sure if stocks will still be available for some of the more popular bargains.
Best Xbox Series X Presidents’ Day deals
If you don’t own the console yet, you’re going to want to take advantage of these Xbox Series X Presidents’ Day deals. Some of these are straight-up discounts for the device, while some are bundles that include games and accessories that you may need to make the gaming experience even better. Whichever offer you choose to purchase, make sure that you hurry because there’s no telling when these bargains will get sold out.
Microsoft Xbox Series X (Renewed) —
Microsoft Xbox Series X —
Microsoft Xbox Series X + Extra Xbox Wireless Controller —
Microsoft Xbox Series X Diablo IV Bundle —
Microsoft Xbox Series X + Seagate 2TB Expansion Card —
Best Xbox Series X game Presidents’ Day deals
The best Xbox Series X exclusives give gamers a healthy number of reasons to purchase the console, but there are also a long list of multi-platform titles that are available for the Xbox Series X. If you’re looking for the next game to play, or if you’re building out your gaming library, you wouldn’t want to miss the savings that you can get from the available Xbox Series X game Presidents’ Day deals — even if that means adding more titles to your backlog.
Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Edition —
NBA 2K24: Kobe Bryant Edition —
Halo Infinite —
Lego 2K Drive —
Assassin’s Creed Mirage —
AEW: Fight Forever —
Hogwarts Legacy —
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor —
Mortal Kombat 1 —
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League —
Best Xbox Series X accessory Presidents’ Day deals
There are all kinds of Xbox Series X accessories, for purposes such as expanding storage, improving communication during online multiplayer matches, and giving you a new controller experience, among many others. They may get expensive in addition to everything else that you’re buying for the console, so check out the discounts that you can pocket from our favorite Xbox Series X accessory Presidents’ Day deals.
Xbox and Embracer’s layoff explanations aren’t good enough | Digital Trends
The wave of layoffs that has happened over the past year in the video game industry is well-documented. Some of the biggest culprits are Embracer Group, which has laid off nearly 1,400 workers across several of its studios since the start of a restructuring program last July, and Microsoft, which laid off 1,900 developers across Xbox, Bethesda, and Activision Blizzard in January. After relative silence around these layoffs, leadership at both companies finally tried to offer more transparently into what happened.
Neither of their statements are good enough.
While both Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors and Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tried to sound more compassionate about letting go so many developer, those sentiments lack meaning when their focus is still on infinite growth and profitability. There’s a disconnect between the workers and the leadership at these companies, one that these lacking statements have begun to unveil.
Lars Wingefors’ statement
Embracer Group entered a restructuring program last summer when investment, reportedly from the Saudi Arabia-backed Savvy Games, fell through. The conglomerate had spent years acquiring a wide variety of IP and studios, but has now been shutting studios down, canceling projects, and laying off workers to make up for this lack of expected cash flow.
“In a groupwide effort, our companies and studios have had to make difficult decisions, particularly on having to part ways with team members,” Embracer’s third-quarter 2023 interim report, attributed to Wingefors, states. “In total, we have reduced our global headcount by 8% of the workforce since the start of the program. The reductions are managed locally on the operative group level, with a focus on informing affected employees first, and then carried out with compassion, respect, and integrity towards those affected.”
The statement falls flat for a few reasons. First, it sounds like he’s shifting the blame to individual studios when he points out that “reductions are managed locally,” even though these reductions are happening because of a deal he failed to close. Wingefors says the layoffs were “carried out with compassion, respect, and integrity,” but moves like closing Volition on the last day of August, which limited the health benefits its former employees could continue to receive, doesn’t line up with that claim. The impact of this attempt at compassion is also dulled by a statement made earlier in the third-quarter report.
“As part of the restructuring program, Embracer still has a few larger structured divestment processes ongoing that could strengthen our balance sheet and further reduce capex. Processes are in mature stages. Certain companies might initiate restructuring before any divestment is announced. Our overruling principle is to always maximize shareholder value in any given situation.”
Here’s another damning comment from a company earnings call Q&A: “You can debate the speed we went to build organic growth, but the ambition was obviously to aggressively organically grow the company. Now, we need to adjust for that, and that’s basically the core of the issue that we are addressing here.” No matter what Wingefors says, that makes it clear the developers and creatives aren’t who he’s truly concerned about; those investing in Embracer Group are.
Phil Spencer’s statement
During the Updates on the Xbox Business edition of the Official Xbox Podcast, leadership at Xbox repeatedly stressed how they wanted to maintain the health of the brand. Of course, that feels a bit at odds with laying off nearly 2,000 developers, so Spencer did take the time to address recent layoffs during the podcast. He admits that while 2023 was “an incredible year for gaming,” he sees a problem in that the industry “didn’t really grow.”
“What happens when an industry doesn’t grow? You end up with job eliminations, which we had,” Spencer says. “We had even our own hard decisions to make about building a sustainable business for ourselves, but in no way were we alone in that. When you think about a healthy industry, I want players who believe that they will find the best games on the platforms that they love. I want people who invest their careers in working here to feel like this is a place that they can be successful, and that is really down to being part of an industry that is growing. If you listen to Lisa Su, the AMD CEO, she’ll say that AMD-powered consoles are likely to decline in 2024. I think there’s an amazing set of games coming in 2024, but if we don’t get growing as an industry, the industry will struggle.”
Spencer’s statement does feel more transparent and honest toward developers than Wingefors’, but it’s far from a perfect response. Later on in the show, Xbox President Sarah Bond boasted that Xbox is “at the highest level of users on console, the highest level of users on PC, the highest level of users on cloud ever,” which seems at odds with the idea of a lack of growth, at least for Microsoft.
There’s some logic to it when zooming out. Newzoo’s 2023 Global Games Market Report shows that year-over-year growth for the game industry was only 0.6%. While Xbox user counts might be at an all-time high, its growth relative to that small industrywide percentage appears to be what concerns Spencer. Even with that considered, the biggest problem with Spencer’s statement is that it suggests Microsoft’s leadership is still keenly focused on the idea of infinite growth.
A year can’t just be good for the game industry — it needs to be better than the last. And if leadership deems the industry doesn’t quite meet the bar, the developers making the games are the ones punished. That’s part of why Embracer Group’s restructuring program isn’t quite over yet and why Xbox is starting to bring some of its games multiplatform.
Although I appreciate that Wingefors and Spencer took the time to address the devastating layoffs their companies caused, their words don’t do enough to shake the notion that those in charge at some of the video game industry’s largest companies care more about investors than the people actually creating games that make them money. Leadership at these video game industry companies needs to do better if we’re going to see the end of this layoff crisis.
Microsoft is gearing up for a big holiday season at the end of this year. During yesterday’s much-hyped Official Xbox Podcast, Xbox president Sarah Bond teased news regarding the company’s hardware, as well as its plans for its next-gen gaming devices. “What we’re really focused on there is delivering the largest technical leap you will have ever seen in a hardware generation,” she said.
The biggest question about Microsoft’s next bet, then, isn’t whether or not it will continue to make traditional consoles that plug into your television. It’s if Microsoft will follow in the footsteps of companies like Nintendo and Valve to make a console you can carry around. Gaming has long advanced past the point of handhelds only providing a separate, smaller experience; you can play everything from battle royale megahits like Fortnite to expansive, open worlds like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom without a full TV setup.
Other Microsoft competitors like Sony have already dipped into handhelds. In addition to the company’s efforts like the PlayStation Vita, which it stopped producing in 2019, it released PlayStation Portal—which allows you to stream games from your PS5—last year.
Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has expressed admiration for his competitors’ strategies. During a recent interview with The Verge, he says Microsoft has been “kind of learning from what Nintendo has done over the years with Switch … When I look at Steam Deck and the ROG [handheld] and my [Lenovo handheld] Legion Go, I’m a big fan of that space.” What keeps players from gaming more, he says, is more than just sleep or the regular obligations of life. “Some of it is just access,” he told The Verge. “Do I have access to the games that I want to play right now?”
Even when asked directly about whether Microsoft would be making a handheld, Spencer refuted the idea. “I’m a big fan, but nothing to announce.”
Doubling down on traditional consoles this holiday season isn’t unexpected. In September, Microsoft accidentally leaked information about its release plans, including a look at its mid-gen console refresh and a new controller, through unredacted documents. If still accurate, the documents also included information on its next-gen Xbox console, pegged to 2028, as a “hybrid game platform” that would use the cloud.
Although cloud gaming offers an attractive solution for some players looking to avoid the hassle of a console on the shelf of their home entertainment center, Xbox execs have always been firm that traditional consoles are important to the business. “When we look at our hardware … it’s where you get the most flagship, seminal experience of Xbox,” Bond said during the podcast. “And it also represents a developer target. Our developers can build the specs of our hardware, and we invest to make sure when they do, that the games are going to run great on our hardware, but they’re also going to be able to be accessed across any screen because of all the other investments we make.”
As Microsoft opens up its games to more platforms, it needs to make its signature hardware more appealing beyond a community loyal to the brand itself. Spencer himself may agree; eagle-eyed fans have noticed him liking tweets calling a handheld “inevitable.” Microsoft doesn’t have to make a technological leap to make great games accessible; just one that lets you go outside once in a while.