Well the wait is over. NVIDIA Shield has shipped and I’ve been playing with a manufacturing prototype for about a month now. As several have pointed out, it is kind of a game geek’s dream device. What it does is take the annoying part of playing an Android game out of the equation. That annoying part is the screen controls and this is because Shield is basically an Android powered game controller with a screen and full wireless connectivity. The only shortcoming is that there isn’t yet a truly epic title for Android - but that may be coming as Project Snowstorm, the first really epic game for Android, has just started their Kickstarter campaign.
Shield is shipping now and I’m impressed.
NVIDIA held back the launch of the Shield product because a defect was discovered in their initial run, which caused one of the controllers to fail. I never found out what that defect was and my controllers all worked flawlessly during the time I had the product. Shield is solidly built and well protected so it should hold up and did for me. I had no breakage issues even though I tossed the device around a great deal, right now it still looks mostly brand new after a month of use.
Game Play is intuitive and fun as you would expect from a controller based product. I have found playing Android games annoying largely because screen controls can be iffy and you miss a swipe and you’ve run your car into a wall or gotten your character killed by accident, not because you were slow or distracted, but because the touch screen Gods decided your finger wasn’t worthy or some such. I never really figured out why that seems to happen but with the Shield you don’t have that problem, control is precise and reliable. You could play a decent PVP game with Shield, I wouldn’t even try it with a regular Android phone or tablet. The device is clearly best with games that were designed with a controller in mind.
One of the biggest surprises was how well this device controlled the AR Drone I have. The AR Drone has sensors, making it easy to control with a phone or tablet. But with actual joysticks, control is far more precise and the end result is a far more satisfying experience. By having the display on the controller you can actually fly the Drone as if you were in it, which is fun, but I think this would be even more fun with traditional remote control plane or helicopter. Issue can range because even though this uses Wi-Fi if there are a lot of access points in the area they can cut your active range significantly. Out in the country where you are more likely to fly a remote control plane (as opposed to my back yard for the drone) this would be less of an issue.
Portable Movie Player
Shield is actually better as a movie player than a small tablet or phone largely because it will stand on its own, will easily (with an adapter) plug into a TV and output HD on the larger screen ,and because it has a ton of battery life. What I like is that you can watch movies and play games and not have to wonder if your phone will still have enough battery to make calls when your plane lands after a long trip. It is also unusual enough to draw interest from folks in the plane like iPhones once did - so there is a nice status aspect to the device right now because it is rare. The sound out of the device is pretty amazing but I tend to mostly use headphones instead of the native speakers while flying.
Wrapping Up: In Search of the Perfect Game
The issue with any game approach using a third party OS is that break out games are hard to come by. While I think you could have a Halo like game for the platform, getting funding for one isn’t as easy as it is for a console because the console maker will fund it knowing they will get back their investment in royalties. NVIIDA doesn’t get royalties and games developed will benefit all Android platforms making it harder to get unique titles. However, NVIDIA has played with this shortcoming their entire life with Windows and that suggests there will be one or two breakout titles shortly. The one I know about is the Mech game Hawken and since I’m a big Mech game player I can hardly wait for it on Shield.
In the end, NVIDIA’s Shield makes all other handheld game systems, and maybe even consoles, effectively obsolete.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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