Despite Microsoft’s many successful forays into the world of gaming, the company has never tried its hand at creating something for the portable market. Sony, of course, devoted resources to two handheld projects: the rather successful PSP, and the decidedly less well-received Vita (which we still say is underrated). Nintendo is arguably better known for its handheld offerings than its home consoles, which is why marrying the two worlds with the Switch made so much sense.
Microsoft, however, has stayed away from this area of the gaming world. There are likely to be several reasons for this. The company itself has stated that it just hasn’t had the resources to dedicate to creating a handheld machine; several handheld Xbox proposals have been submitted, but they were all rejected. In addition, it’s worth noting that Nintendo currently has a vise-like grip on the handheld market, and that Microsoft could well have seen Sony’s relative failure in this area and baulked.
However, thanks to an enterprising TikTok content creator, we now have an idea of what a portable Xbox might look like. Kashama, who goes by the username @imkashama, created a prototype of the Xbox Series Z and showed it off in a video a few months back. The design of the console is incredibly impressive; it’s a clamshell device that opens up when pressing in the Xbox button built into its lid, showing a bezel-less screen and a series of controls including a touch screen at the bottom.
We’re sure we don’t just speak for ourselves when we say that Kashama’s prototype of the Xbox Series Z is truly breathtaking. The menu screen displays games like Far Cry 6, FIFA 22, and Among Us, as well as Cyberpunk 2077, Gears 5, and others. It’s a very impressive feat of engineering; we especially love the attention to detail, like the way the analogue sticks pop up from their housing and the touch screen slides itself into position upon opening up the console.
Unfortunately, the Xbox Series Z is completely fictional, or at the very least it’s not an official Xbox device. Microsoft hasn’t made an Xbox handheld, and it probably never will; with its move into cloud gaming, there’s no real reason for Microsoft to create a dedicated piece of handheld gaming hardware, since gamers can just access Xbox titles by streaming them with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership. The Xbox Series Z must, therefore, remain a pipe dream, it seems.
But how did Kashama make this prototype? Well, it’s worth noting here that he’s an incredibly famous and successful TikTok content creator who imagines what tech might look like in the future, then brings it to life. His previous creations include a fold-up iPhone, a smartwatch by luxury car manufacturer Lamborghini, and a snazzily futuristic Xbox controller that we’d love to get our hands on. It seems Kashama’s stock in trade is making us feel FOMO for gadgets that don’t even exist in the real world.
Since the advent of that video, though, one spanner has been thrown in the works, and that’s Valve’s Steam Deck. This device is, in essence, a dedicated handheld gaming PC, capable of playing the entire Steam library. Many have seen it as competition for the Nintendo Switch, but that’s not entirely accurate; it’s better to see it as a device that can sit alongside Nintendo’s hybrid console, an option for when you want to play PC-exclusive games but you don’t want to fire up your expensive desktop.
Could the Steam Deck persuade Microsoft to work on a handheld to try and compete with both Valve and Nintendo? Well, in short, probably not, no. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said that he doesn’t see Nintendo and Sony as his competition, explaining that he wants to compete with Amazon and Google in the nascent cloud gaming space instead. This makes a lot of sense; with Microsoft shifting its strategy towards emphasising Xbox Game Pass, its cloud gaming utilisation is going to be much more integral in the coming years.
Indeed, Spencer’s comments could suggest that not only is Microsoft not interested in producing a handheld, but the company may actually not make another next-gen console. There will inevitably be a PlayStation 6, most likely followed by more hardware such as a PS6 Slim, as well as whatever Nintendo is positioning the Switch’s successor to be, but we wouldn’t be surprised at all if Microsoft did not make an Xbox Series 2. Instead, expect to see the company try to increase compatibility between its Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming segment and existing hardware.
So, what does this mean for the little old Xbox Series Z? Unfortunately, all signs point to Microsoft never creating anything that looks as sexy as this little gadget does. However, all hope is not lost. If Microsoft does want to emphasise cloud gaming in future, then there’s absolutely nothing stopping someone – perhaps even Kashama – from making this device a reality and installing software on it that allows users to play Xbox Game Pass games. That Xbox Series Z could become a reality yet, just in a different guise!
In the meantime, of course, you can play Xbox games – whether on Game Pass or simply by purchasing them – on the Xbox Series X and Series S. Cloud gaming means you can access many of these games on your smartphone or tablet, too, and the Xbox wireless controller is compatible with many mobile devices, so you don’t need to use touch controls (although many games on Game Pass do support them now!). Whatever happens in the future, one thing’s for sure: Xbox isn’t going anywhere.