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A Handheld For Xbox Games Is Coming, But It's Not What You Think

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has been using a handheld device to play Xbox games, but it is not developed by Microsoft. In a tweet, Spencer said that he has been using Valve's Steam Deck for a week after visiting with the company.


"After having mine most of the week I can say it's a really nice device. Games with me on the go, screen size, controls all great. Playing Halo and Age feels good, xCloud works well. Congrats SD team," Spencer wrote.

The announcement of the Steam Deck left the internet divided over what content might be playable on the handheld console. Valve has said that other storefronts and applications would work on the device, since it is really just a PC in handheld form. Spencer's tweet seems to be the first confirmation outside of Valve that the device can be used to play games outside of the Steam storefront. 

Of course, Xbox Cloud Streaming can be run in just a web browser, so Spencer using it on the Steam Deck may not have been too difficult. On the other hand, cloud streaming can also be done through the Xbox App on PC, although it's unclear which method Spencer used. The second option should be more exciting for people who have ordered the device, since it implies more functionality. However, Spencer's discussion of the Steam Deck has fans wondering if Valve and Microsoft might be planning something bigger. 


Xbox Game Pass handheld?

The question of whether Phil Spencer was using a web browser of the Xbox App for PC to stream Xbox games on the Steam Deck has a ton of other implications for the future of cloud gaming. While there are benefits of streaming games to the Steam Deck, especially since the storage on the low-end model is tiny, the device doesn't have access to streaming when not connected to Wi-Fi, lowering its portability. If Spencer had the Xbox App downloaded on the Steam Deck, that means users would have access to the full Xbox Game Pass for PC library and could download the games for use on the go.


While some Xbox games are available through Steam, like "Forza Horizon 4," Steam Deck users would need to buy these games from Steam in order to play them. If Game Pass for PC works on the Steam Deck, users could get access to a ton of Microsoft games and more for a subscription fee, which could save them a ton of money in the long run. Unless Valve chooses to demonstrate exactly how loading other storefronts and apps works on the Steam Deck, there might not be confirmation of how the interface will work until they ship to the public in December.

Those aren't the only questions unanswered about the Steam Deck, since some of the biggest games on Steam right now won't play on the device.