For years there were rumblings about a portable Xbox game console.
Nintendo had the Game Boy, then the DS, now the 3DS. Sony had the PlayStation Portable, and now has the PlayStation Vita.
So why not Microsoft?
“That’s just not a priority. It’s just not what we’re going to do. It’s interesting! And there might be somebody who could do a good job with that, but it’s not gonna be us,” former Microsoft Xbox lead Robbie Bach told Tech Insider in an interview on Wednesday.
In Bach’s new book, “Xbox Revisited,” he writes that “several” groups with Microsoft’s Xbox Leadership Team (XLT) were pushing for a handheld Xbox console, which fans started calling the “Xboy” after the project leaked to the public.
“The basic idea behind these ‘Xboy’ proposals was that Microsoft needed a complete product line to capture a younger audience, gain more retail shelf space, and provide opportunities for publishers to leverage their Xbox investments,” Bach writes.
But the reality of that concept isn’t quite as simple. Bach explained why in our interview:
The games aren’t the same. A good Xboy game would not have been a good Xbox game and vice versa. You might’ve been able to borrow some of the intellectual properties, but it would have had to be a different game. So you’d have to develop a new game.
For Microsoft, that would mean another major investment in video games. After a five to seven billion dollar loss on the original Xbox — all with the intention of becoming a major player in the games business — Bach wasn’t willing to go through that again.
Moreover, because of the form factor of a handheld game console and the tradeoff in power that comes with a handheld, game development would completely change.
“Now you’re talking about miniaturization, maybe you’re talking about a touch screen,” Bach explained to Tech Insider. “You’re talking about a bunch of stuff that doesn’t relate to Xbox.”
And so, the “Xboy” never came to be.
Perhaps that’s for the best: Sony’s efforts with the PSP and PS Vita have largely fallen flat, despite years of trying. The Vita is little more than a companion device for Sony’s far more successful PlayStation 4. Even Nintendo, the established player in the portable games market, is struggling these days against the wild success of mobile games on smartphones. Who needs a portable game system when their phone is just as capable, or maybe even more capable in some cases?
Nintendo’s quickly realising the answer to that question is, “Make mobile versions of our games for smartphones.” The first one launches later this year, with more coming in 2016. Bach and co. may have dodged a tremendous bullet.
Did you work on Xboy prototypes? Do you know more about the portable Xbox console concept? Get in touch!
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