Microsoft's Portable Xbox: Now's the Time
Full Xbox Live support? A new Halo at launch? We're there.
Microsoft has made great strides in the console space, despite stiff competition from industry veterans Sony and Nintendo. Chalk that up to having one of the biggest franchises of all time (Halo) and Xbox Live, the most user friendly and expansive online gaming network in history.
That said, there's one digital nut Microsoft has yet to crack: the handheld market. Its ill-fated Zune failed to make a dent in the gaming space, and the more recent Windows Phone 7 currently lacks the star power to defeat iPhone and Android, Xbox Live support notwithstanding.
The next logical step would be to release a portable gaming system, similar to Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's Next Generation Portable (NGP). Hardcore fans have demanded one for years while at the same time daydreaming what such a device would involve.
This brings us to next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and Microsoft's press conference, which doesn't scream "must attend", largely because there's little to get excited about. Kinect will be the primary focus, with the rumored and motion controlled Halo taking center stage, but aside from that, it could be business as usual.
Unless, of course, Microsoft has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a portable Xbox, a system as powerful as the NGP and therefore capable of putting a high-definition gaming experience in your hands.
It may seem farfetched, but consider this: that's how many gamers felt when Microsoft announced the original Xbox. Few people thought the market could support three competitors, especially when companies like Atari, Panasonic and even Sega failed to compete with Sony and Nintendo in the 90s.
Of course, the rest was history. The first Xbox was an oversized clunker, but Xbox 360 has enjoyed nearly six years of success, the red ring of death aside.
In a way, this is the ideal moment for Microsoft to reveal a portable Xbox, complete with Live integration and of course, a new Halo available at launch.
Keep in mind that when we mention Xbox Live, we mean full support, and not some watered down mobile version. You'd be able to not only sign into your console profile, but also enjoy all of the Arcade games, thanks to the handheld's advanced processing muscle.
We also doubt many gamers would resist a portable Halo, especially if it came with online play.
Most importantly, this would give the gaming world something to talk about. Make no mistake. Microsoft is in a strange position at E3 and the rest of 2011, as Sony prepares to unleash NGP and Nintendo plans to wow audiences with Project Cafe, the publisher's newest console set to debut in 2012. A Kinect controlled Halo sounds cool, but it takes a backseat to the aforementioned systems.
Bottom line, Microsoft dabbled in portable gaming but has failed to give 110 percent. With Sony struggling to get PlayStation Network back online and Nintendo's 3DS falling short of the publisher's sales expectations, now is the perfect time to strike with a portable Xbox.
Unless, of course, the company has some crazy Xbox 360 exclusive that'll revolutionize the industry. Kinectimals 2, perhaps.