Microsoft has started testing new updates to the Xbox app for Windows 11 that improve the experience on handheld consoles and smaller screens.
In a test version of the Xbox app released in the past few days, Microsoft introduced a new feature that significantly reduces the sidebar on the left.
Compact Mode is designed to improve “the experience on mobile devices and small screens,” according to Microsoft, and it also works on screens of all sizes. This is a relatively small change in the user interface, but very welcome on devices like the ROG Ally we tested with a 7-inch screen or the upcoming Lenovo Legion Go.
The experience of using Windows 11 on such devices shows its limitations on devices like the ROG Ally, and the improvements to the Xbox app are an encouraging first step towards what will hopefully be some sort of Windows feature for portable gaming consoles.
In the past few months, various ideas for “Windows portability mode” have been leaked from a hackathon project within Microsoft, including a floating taskbar, improved game launcher and changes to the Xbox app. This gaming shell was just a prototype, built before devices like Lenovo’s ROG Ally and Legion Go were announced.
Asus’ ROG Ally is now emerging as the portable Xbox for PC Game Pass. Even Xbox boss Phil Spencer is a fan of the ROG Ally, describing it as his “Xbox on the go” in an interview with Eurogamer earlier this year. There’s still so much Microsoft could do to improve the experience, though. “We’re focused on making the Xbox and Game Pass experience great on devices like Ally… We have a lot of work to do toward that goal,” Spencer admitted in July.
Microsoft has also previously hinted at bringing features like Quick Resume to Windows gamers, along with commitments to work with publishers to improve the cross-device game resumption experience.