COMMENTARY | The Nvidia Project Shield is an interesting amalgamation of technologies that allows this portable Android gaming console to bridge the game between Android, console, and PC gaming. But what if attempting to cover so many bases is a mistake in of itself?
Investors so far are not that impressed with Nvidia’s announcement of Project Shield at CES 2013. According to Barron’s, “shares of Nvidia (NVDA) are down 9 cents, or 1%, at $13.06, reversing pre-market gains, after the company last night introduced the fourth version of its Tegra application processor for tablets and smartphones, and also said it would begin selling its own video gameconsole running Google’s (GOOG) Android software.” But this does not necessarily mean that Nvidia will fail in their efforts. It just means that investors have not yet had time to analyze the data and conclude what Nvidia’s financial prospects may be for this new venture.
According to Anandtech, Nvidia’s open approach to software should allow gamers many choices in how they use their Project Shield:
“On the software side of things Project Shield is running what NVIDIA is calling ‘pure Android’, which in this case is presumably a reference to them not doing any skinning/customizations, ala MotoBlur, TouchWiz, and other OEM customizations. This means that Project Shield is capable of running standard applications (something NVIDIA made sure to demo) and is otherwise usable as a standard Android device. Meanwhile NVIDIA’s Shield application is where gaming takes place, effectively launching users into NVIDIA’s own sandbox, where gamers can pick up Shield-optimized games from the TegraZone store and then run them on the device.”
Gamasutra believes that Nvidia is attempting to cover all the current tech trends by bridging the gap between Android, console, and PC gaming. While Nvidia obviously sees this strategy as a strength, Gamasutra believes that riding the fence and not optimizing for one approach will be Project Shield’s downfall:
“Nvidia is attempting to combine the best of both worlds, but it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll better the competition in either trend. You could argue that it would be tidier to own an Nvidia Shield rather than both an Ouya and a Steam Box. That may well be the Shield’s saving grace, and if Nvidia can get the hardware out to the public — and prove the device is worthwhile — before Valve has the time to make a move, then it could be a viable option. As of now I’m incredibly skeptical, and most likely the Shield is going to be non-news by the time the next round of consoles has been revealed.”
Their biggest argument is that the Sony Xperia Play enjoyed limited success because most Android games are not optimized for controllers but instead are focused on using the touchscreen. This makes the controller interface a novelty and many Android gamers end up returning to their pocket smartphone in the long run as their primary portable gaming device. The Ouya gaming console faces a similar challenge and they are asking that game developers produce special ports of their games. But unlike Ouya, Nvidia has a long history in the gaming market and developers may support them better. In addition, the Project Shield still has a touchscreen while both Ouya and GameStick games must be ported in order to be played at all.
You might argue that the same could be said of Sony. But in the case of the Xperia Play I say that it was more focused on being a smartphone than a dedicated gaming console. The analog controls on the Xperia Play were very twitchy at best, while the Nvidia Project Shield should be more comfortable with most gamers. Of course, this could be seen as a knock against the Shield since I doubt it’ll easily fit into most pockets, but the same could be said of the Nintendo DS. The Xperia Play was almost too early to the market, as Android gaming really didn’t come into its own until last year.
Really, the long term success of the Nvidia Project Shield, and likewise the Ouya, rides on the willingness of Android game developers to support dedicated game controllers. Otherwise, like the Xperia Play, these consoles will wither on the vine. Besides gamer recognition, the biggest advantage that the Nvidia Project Shield will have over competitors like the Ouya is the wireless video bridging technologies that brings PC gaming to the home theater. While there are already wireless HDMI bridges out there the Shield will enjoy the benefit of being immediately useful while the Ouya will have to wait on game porting. In addition, I wonder if it’s possible to game on the Shield and use the PC for productivity/internet at the same time?
Do you think the Nvidia Project Shield will fail?