NVIDIA Project Shield is the next console war loser

Sections: CES, Conventions, Developers, Exclusives, Features, Game-Companies, Handhelds, Handhelds-Other, Opinions, Publishers

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We were certainly hoping to glean some info about upcoming consoles at CES 2013, but NVIDIA’s Project Shield was not what we expected. The company best known for making computer chips wants into the intensely competitive portable gaming market. Its entrant is a bizarre hybrid of PC and Xbox 360 controller. Seriously, if this thing makes any money, Microsoft’s just going to lawyer up and take its cut of the proceeds.

NVIDIA Project Shield will play Android games and stream PC games through a Wi-Fi connection. Unless there’s a serious surge in playable Android software between now and whenever Project Shield hits shelves, it’s hard to see the market for this handheld. I don’t want to stray too far into the what constitutes a “real” game debate here. Temple Run and Angry Birds are fun diversions, but no one buys a phone or tablet just to play those games. Playing them is another cool thing you can do on a device that has lots of other uses.

There is the NVIDIA Project Shield’s PC streaming capability, but you’ll need a GeForce GTX 650 or later to use that function. Who wants to spend the cash for a top of the line PC, then stream games to another device adding needless latency? It’s a portable gaming device that’s not very portable.

NVIDIA is indicating it won’t sell NVIDIA Project Shield at a loss. Even dedicated gaming handhelds such as the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita are struggling in the current market. They have decades of experience in the industry, and brands such as Mario Bros. and God of War at their disposal. One of Vita’s biggest issues is a lack of “must have” software. I find it hard to believe NVIDIA will find a library of system-selling titles when Sony has been unable to.

This console seems an attempt to make PC gaming more accessible to the casual gamer. I don’t think that gamer is willing to spend what it will cost for this device to run smoothly. This device also has competition from Valve and its “Big Picture” mode. This technology will also soon be available in console form and if it’s a choice between Project Shield and Steam’s legendary library, Steam wins every time.

NVIDIA Project Shield seems too casual for the core gamer and too hardcore for the casual gamer. Unless NVIDIA wants to sell this at a price comparable to other portable gaming devices, I don’t see it making an impact.

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