A former Xbox boss has revealed some of the reasons why the company never made a portable game console, despite several teams inside Microsoft pushing for it.
Robbie Bach, who left Microsoft in 2010 after years of running the Xbox business from the beginning in 2001, said in a recent interview during the New York Game Awards that he rejected every Xbox portable proposal because the company just didn’t have the bandwidth to support it.
The three pitches for a portable Xbox during Bach’s tenure at Microsoft all referred to the system as “Xboy,” which could have led to a trademark issue, the executive joked.
“During my time at Xbox, there were at least three groups that presented portable Xbox presentations. They always got called Xboy for some reason. Would have been a trademark problem, I’m sure,” he said. “All three times we decided not to do it.”
Bach said he has “great respect” for Sony and Nintendo, two gaming giants who made both home console and portable devices to great success. Bach said people assume that it would be easy to succeed in both markets, but that’s just not true.
“I have great respect for Sony and Nintendo for being able to be in both of those marketplaces. Because everybody says, ‘Ohh [console and portable are] related and there’s a lot of leverage and it’s easy to move from one to the other,'” Bach said. “And I think they’re actually, at the time–Switch has changed all of that, I suppose–but at the time they were pretty different. And it would have meant starting up another team. It would have been like starting Xbox [again] except creating a handheld. And we just didn’t have the bandwidth to do that.”
Bach went on to remark that the internal pitches for a portable Xbox platform “just would not die,” with teams coming to him over and over trying to make it happen. However, Bach never buckled and said no every time.
In 2017, current Xbox boss Phil Spencer discussed Microsoft’s efforts in the portable gaming space. He said Microsoft did in fact create rough designs for an Xbox handheld, but the company never advanced these prototypes to become a real product.
For what it’s worth, Sony has backed out of the portable space after discontinuing its PlayStation Vita line, while Nintendo is seemingly winding down its 3DS business in favor of pushing the Nintendo Switch which has portable applications.