Yesterday at CES, Taiwanese computing powerhouse Nvidia shocked the world by announcing their very own handheld gaming console; an Android-powered, Steam-integrated game-centric device that would also allow gamers to not only play native Android games, but also to stream games from their PC’s. In a world where Sony’s latest handheld can barely get off the ground, does anybody really need or even want this thing?
Firstly, as far as I’m concerned, the thing is hideous. Not only does it employ the awfully trite, clichéd lumo green and black palette – but it looks like somebody went and duct-taped a screen to the “Old Duke” controller that came with the original Xbox. Gaudy aesthetics are the least of its problems.
As an Android device, it already has a large library of games; just about everything you’d find on the Google Play store. That’s great…there are some pretty good mobile phone games available – and that’s the first problem. They’re games for phones and tablets. They’re mostly played by people on the move; in commute; standing in queues. I hardly see anybody these days lugging about a dedicated handheld platform like the 3DS or Vita for their on-the-go-gaming when their phones generally suffice. Why on earth would anybody lug around this hideously bulky thing to play the same games they could play on their phones? Sure, there will be a few Tegra 4 exclusive games – and the version of Hawken shown at CES is pretty damned impressive, but all it helps do is further fragment the Android user base.
One of the Shield’s more intriguing features is it’s ability to stream games directly from your PC, over ad-hoc Wi-Fi, making it a bit like an odd Wii U and OnLive hybrid. That means you’ll probably only use it for that purpose in the confines of your own home – and unless you’re the laziest sort of gamer who’s unable to even get out of bed in the mornings or, because of the lack of fibre in your diet spend an inordinate amount of time on the can you’ll hardly use this. Especially as it’s being targeted towards hardcore PC gamers – who’d rather eat broken glass from the floor of a public restroom than give up their beloved keyboard and mouse to twiddle with a couple of analogue sticks to play games.
It gets even worse. To even use the streaming feature, you need to own relatively current Nvidia hardware, locking out millions of the AMD-sporting PC gamers that they’re targeting. You’ll need at minimum a mid-range GeForce GTX 650 just to get going.
Then there’s the cost factor. Looking at its specifications, it’s probably not going to be cheap. Sporting Nvidia’s newly announced Quad-core, Cortex A15-powered Tegra 4 chipset and a pretty damned nice 720p retina display I reckon it’s going to cost at least as much as a Vita…and look how well that’s doing.
“Project Shield was created by Nvidia engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play. We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love Shield as much as we do,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive officer at Nvidia in a press release.
“Nobody asked for this, and it’s stupid,” said Geoff shortly after the announcement. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s got some great tech, and I’d really love to own one if it were given to me; I just don’t see many people buying it. Hey, remember Panasonic’s Jungle, a similar device that was meant to open up MMO’s to on-the-go gamers? Yeah, me neither.
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I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces. I am also the emperor of the backend