May 15, 2013

NVIDIA Shield: Revolutionizing Gaming


This week NVIDIA announced the configuration and price for its Shield handheld gaming system and the $350 price, which appears high for the market, is giving some folks pause. However, this is because people are used to systems that are subsidized by their games and an Android-based gaming system doesn’t fit that model. The closest comparison is an unlocked phone, though this is actually better because unlocked phones don’t get the massive game discount that Shield will get.  

Let’s look at the amazing NVIDIA Shield effort this week and what makes it truly revolutionary.

Unlocked Gaming

If you use a typical handheld or console game system, you know games sell for between $35 and $60. They are very expensive for two reasons: there is a ton of cost to create them and they have to kick back a large portion of the purchase price to the manufacturer in order to support the subsidy model.   If you take a platform like Android, as Shield has done, there really is no way to do this without forking Android (creating a unique version like Amazon did for the Kindle) and Google’s licensing, thanks to Amazon, no longer allows this option. 

As a result, the gaming system is priced higher than it would be had it used the subsidized model, but the games will be priced between $10 and $20 and the system will come bundled with two games. Think of it as an investment in less expensive games.

Unique Gaming Model

Mobile game systems have traditionally had very limited control capabilities, lacked the kind of resolutions that game consoles are capable of, and HAD no real tablet capabilities.   Shield is very different in all cases.   While it displays 720p on its own display, it will output the 4K resolution that the next generation of TVs are capable of. In addition, it uses a gaming control modeled after a console controller, making gaming not only more comfortable but more in line with a game console.    Finally, this is an Android platform product, which means it can run Android apps seamlessly, including readers and movie players.   While I can’t really see using this for e-mail or for reading, it could be great for watching YouTube, Netflix or Amazon videos.  

Finally, with the advent of personal drones and the ability to put cameras in remote control cars, boats, planes, and helicopters, the combination of a gaming controller and a screen makes for what is likely the best remote control on the market.   Granted, there are likely limits to the radio range in the device, suggesting some kind of booster accessory in the future, but flying or driving activities with one of these remote control vehicles could rival the experience on video games but take place in the real world and literally put you in the driver or pilot’s seat. 

Success Still Based on Content

However, like all game systems, the success for this one will be based on content that is designed specifically for it and allows the system to shine.    The system particularly lends itself to first person games like shooters; driving or flying games also make the control surfaces shine.   Given that it will lie in a connected world, I expect head-to-head games to be particularly popular.

I also think we will see some unique experiments linking three views, the view of each of the gamers and an audience or strategic view that could be shared on a high definition TV screen. Think of the old Dungeons & Dragons game on steroids, with each of the players looking through the eyes of their character on their personal screen but either a dungeon map or overhead (World of Warcraft) view on the large central TV screen which might partially controlled by the person playing the role of Dungeon master.   I expect this class of game will develop more slowly as developers start to play with the unique capabilities a platform that can blend mobile and console gaming capabilities into the same experience.  

Wrapping Up:   Revolutionary System

We rarely see revolutions in this area because these moves are so risky. However, it was clear that both console and proprietary games systems were dropping into decline and unless someone did something revolutionary the market could evaporate.   NVIDIA has stepped up to do something incredibly revolutionary and will see if they have a Halo-like product that really gets people to buy this game system.   While success may depend on that one killer title, after seeing this system used with a personal drone successfully, I think they have an additional opportunity to ride the drone wave and as these products drop in price this system, as an ideal controller, could ride that wave as well.  

In the end, when it comes to NVIDIA Shield, this could be a revolution we could love.   




Edited by Rich Steeves




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