Don’t worry, Xbox fans, your favorite console isn’t dead yet

Xbox Series X console next to TV
(Image credit: Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The Xbox brand isn’t dead yet. For nearly two weeks, many die-hard fans stormed social media voicing their displeasure over rumors and reports claiming Xbox Series X games were coming to rival consoles like Nintendo Switch and PS5. While that’s happening, it’s on a smaller scale than expected. In fact, it seems Microsoft’s gaming division will expand in the following years.

During an official Xbox podcast, Xbox executives Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond and Matt Booty detailed what players can expect in the future. The most significant news is that four unnamed Xbox exclusives are indeed coming to other platforms. A “next-gen” Xbox console is also in the works, along with an “exciting” hardware announcement this holiday.

These announcements should assuage concerns long-time Xbox fans have had over the company’s direction. Even if select games are released on other platforms, Xbox claims that it is still committed to releasing its own hardware and delivering experiences exclusive to said hardware. It also means that folks on the fence about Xbox might have a reason to finally give the brand a shot — or perhaps return if they bailed in recent years.

If you thought Xbox was down for the count, you’re dead wrong. Here’s why.

Xbox games on other platforms strengthens the brand 

Hi-Fi Rush screenshot

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Exclusives have historically given gaming consoles their identity. When you think Nintendo, you think Mario. The Last of Us is synonymous with PlayStation, while the same is true of Halo and Xbox. However, Xbox has slowly moved away from this by having its subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, available on PC and mobile. Now, some of its first-party exclusives are coming to rival systems.

Xbox didn’t want to say what these games were, but according to The Verge’s Tom Warren, sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans have told him the titles in question are Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, Sea of Thieves and Grounded. Xbox said the four titles comprised two live service games and two smaller games. Sea of Thieves and Grounded would be the former, while Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment would be the latter.

Back in January, rumors suggested Hi-Fi Rush would release on PS5 and Nintendo Switch. This still isn’t official, but it seems Bethesda’s rhythm game could be one of the four titles mentioned during the podcast. Sea of Thieves is another game rumors claimed was landing on rival systems. It seems said rumors will come to pass.

While exclusives give a brand its identity, I agree with Phil Spencer when he says they will become less important to the industry. Xbox already releases its games on PC, and even PlayStation exclusives like The Last of Us, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Returnal now rank among the best PC games. To that end, Xbox is smart to bring more of its exclusives to its direct rivals.

And don't worry, Starfield and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle are staying on Xbox... at least for now.

The next Xbox 

xbox series x discless version and controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Those worried the Xbox Series X would be the last console Microsoft releases will be happy to know we’ll see a next-gen Xbox. Regarding this system, Xbox President Sarah Bond said the company was “invested in the next-generation roadmap” and that the next system would be “the largest technical leap you will have ever seen in a hardware generation.” Rhetoric aside, that’s a clear signal that we’re going to see a new Xbox sometime in the future.

That doesn’t surprise me. As we reported in late September 2023, Microsoft is eyeing a 2028 launch window for a successor to the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, according to a document made public as part of the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit to block Microsoft's acquisition of Activision. That was the understanding back in 2022, as outlined in an internal chat log between Microsoft executives at the time, Axios reports.

Today's announcements should quell fears that there will be no more Xbox consoles. A next-gen Xbox is on the horizon. Phil Spencer also stated that the company wants to provide experiences exclusive to Xbox, even if its games come to other platforms. If you want to continue playing Xbox games on an Xbox system, you’ll still be able to.

Potential handheld 

Asus ROG Ally

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This last bit is speculative, but we might see an Xbox handheld system — potentially this holiday season.

As The Verge reports, rumors regarding a handheld Xbox have gained traction in recent weeks. Apparently, Spencer has liked posts on Twitter that mention such a device. The Xbox head said that he’s a “big fan” of handhelds but that there was “nothing to announce.” Spencer also admitted that Windows 11 on handhelds doesn’t always make for a pleasant experience.

“One of the weak points in the experience on an [Asus] ROG Ally or the Lenovo [Legion Go] is Windows,” said Spencer. “How Windows works on controller input only on that kind of DPI, on a smaller eight- or seven-inch screen. That’s a real design point that our platform team is working with Windows to make sure that the experience is even better.”

If you’ve read my Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go reviews, then you know that the main thing keeping these machines from overthrowing the Steam Deck is Windows 11. This is because Windows wasn’t made with controller inputs in mind. Touch controls work well enough with Windows, but it’s frustrating using touch controls on a machine with buttons and analog sticks. Though you can use the right analog stick to move the mouse cursor, it’s a cumbersome experience at best.

Microsoft actively working on making Windows work better on handhelds could be a huge game changer for machines using the company’s operating system. As I said in my reviews, Windows 11 is a strength and weakness for handhelds. If it can just be a strength, then the Steam Deck should finally have real competition.

Again, take rumors about a potential Xbox handheld with a grain of salt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if such a device manifests this year. If that’s the case, I hope it will give Sony an incentive to release its own handheld. A true PlayStation handheld can succeed given the proliferation of such devices following the Steam Deck’s launch.

Xbox outlook 

If you were worried that Xbox was dropping out of the console race, I think the February 15 announcement should give you hope that Microsoft’s system still has plenty of fight left.

Xbox exclusives on other systems isn’t the end of the world. In fact, that means more revenue for the brand that it can invest in more exclusives. On top of that, we’re getting a new Xbox in a few years and could even see a handheld this holiday. These are clear signs Xbox isn’t down for the count.

Anything can change, but for now, it’s best to not worry about Xbox’s future. I think everything’s going to be all right — or perhaps better than ever.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.