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Games: Is the idea of a hand-held Xbox really just pie in the sky?

Eagle-eyed patent-hunters discovered a submission by Microsoft on July 9 for what appears to be a handheld Xbox
Neil McGreevy

DESPITE its Etch-a-Sketch visuals, Nintendo's Game Boy remains the once and future king of handhelds. 30 years on, the venerable six-incher is still the best selling console of all time – and despite countless attempts, no-one has come close to challenging the company's monopoly on pocket gaming.

When it comes to the handheld arms race, Nintendo are up to their necks in slain enemies – from the Lynx and Game Gear to the PlayStation Portable and Vita. But even with their latest, the Switch, selling like gangbusters, it seems a new challenger is attempting to muscle in on the Japanese giant's racket.

Eagle-eyed patent-hunters discovered a submission by Microsoft on July 9 for what appears to be a handheld Xbox. It may be a simple 2D sketch, but the filing has provoked a torrent of patent blether on the internet.

Not unlike the Switch, the patent shows a pair of clip-on controllers which attach to existing screens, turning your trusty smartphone into an Xbox. The controllers boast a full throng of home console buttons, including left and right triggers, leaving the screen completely clear, and come with built-in stereo speakers and a headphone jack.

It's thought the actual gaming side would be taken care of via the cloud – players would load up an app which lets them stream Xbox titles over the internet, where 4K quality visuals could be blasted directly onto its screen. With beefy 5G data, the ability to stream Xbox Live fodder on the go is a cinch, offering home console bravado on the humble phone.

With Google set to release Stadia this November, offering a streaming-only "Netflix of Games", the days of having to actually own a game locally could be numbered, and it's clear Microsoft are laying the groundwork for their own cloud-based service.

And, given that the Switch is really only pocket-sized if you're a professional clown, Microsoft's attempt is at least truly portable.

Of course, tech companies file patents almost daily to protect even the most nonsensical pie-in-the-sky, and Microsoft hasn't officially announced any plans for a handheld Xbox. But the thought of playing full-fat versions of Fifa or Call of Duty on your mobile phone is too sweet to ignore – even if they never make landfall.

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