Microsoft bets big on handheld gaming with Xbox compact mode

Honey, I shrunk the Xbox App!

Man playing an Asus Rog Ally aboard a vessel.

Microsoft has introduced a big change for little packages by offering an Xbox Compact mode for the Xbox App. The company seeks to provide a silky smooth and easy Windows 11 handheld gaming experience, among other things.

The Xbox App is Microsoft’s primary hub for gaming content. It’s where PC players can purchase games, gain access to Xbox Game Pass, and use cloud gaming features. It’s a simple app that gives you the Xbox experience without using a console. That is until you attempt to use the app with the latest Ayaneo, Asus ROG Ally, or Lenovo Legion Go.

Handheld players are often met with a clunky and cumbersome UI that scales terribly and is a chore to navigate. Xbox Compact mode seeks to alleviate all these issues. Meanwhile, Steam Deck players arguably have the best handheld experience from a non-traditional perspective. Sometimes life is just not fair.

A desktop view of the new compact mode for the Xbox app.

How it works

You can toggle the feature by clicking on the profile icon in the top left corner of the app and selecting Compact mode. The most immediate change is that the side bar now collapses into icons, providing more screen space to browse content. Small screen users rejoice! Honestly, it sort of reminds me of the recent Spotify app changes, which I quite like.

“We’re also partnering with Asus and other manufacturers to ensure that Compact mode is enabled by default on your handheld devices. We’ll continue to focus on updates to deliver a great Xbox app experience for Windows handheld screens,” says Microsoft.

Moving swiftly on, Microsoft has added a trove of quality-of-life improvements to the app. There’s now Japanese language support for physical and virtual keyboards. Plus console wish list notifications for Xbox Free Play Days.

Finally, there’s a new Gaming Service Repair Tool. It’s dedicated to fix any issues with Game Service or missing content when launching the Xbox App. The new app features should be available now, find out more here. Now, if only Microsoft would make the rest of Windows 11 bearable on handheld, we’d all be happy.