Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nvidia Announces 'Shield' Confuses Literally Everybody

So, there is honestly a little bit of an inordinate amount of news going on these days, and a big contributor to that is the International Consumer Electronics Show which has an inherent skew into gaming, though not a whole lot tends to come out of it if memory serves.  However, at least two big pieces of news, in a sense, have come out and the one that came out first was the announcement of Project Shield from Nvidia, you know, the graphic processor guys.  When you make graphics processors for PCs, the clear and obvious next step is Handheld Mobile Gaming and that is exactly what Nvidia has thrown down into.  I mean, it's so obvious.  Nvidia and I are truly of a like mind in this, a matter that makes absolutely every bit of sense as you would expect a big decision like this to have.

Lack of sense aside, this is still a rather big deal, ill-fated from the beginning or not.  This is being billed as a Handheld Gaming Device, meaning it is stepping directly in line with the 3DS, the Vita and the other "wow, why are you even..." handheld devices that have cropped up.  Much like those, this is going to be running Android, which seems to be on everything that doesn't come from Apple, Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, and also much like those, it doesn't seem to realize that the Android market is apparently undersized compared to iOS despite it being on every mobile thing (and the Ouya, remember that?  No?) that isn't an iDevice, Windows Phone, 3DS or Vita.  Still, perhaps devices like this will change that in the whole run of things, since, well, it's apparently an increasingly bright idea out there.

As for what this Shield is exactly, it's basically a big little controller that also happens to have a Five-inch screen that I am guessing is intended to clamshell on the controller bit itself, but I don't see that being a good idea.  The controller itself is styled after a regular controller, a little more 360 controller than anything (which makes sense, since the Microsoft 'official' PC controller is a 360 one) and has all the usual buttons you might expect, two sticks, plus a handful of strange other buttons (and Start/Select) where the clamshell screen is supposed to fold down at.  Again, perhaps not the greatest idea one could hope to have.  Whether this screen is going to be a touch screen or not is surprisingly up-in-the-air from what I can tell, as it certainly doesn't look like one and isn't in a great place to be one, but at the same time, running Android, you would think it -would- be, right?  Aside from that, it has all the other bells and whistles you could assume, and while it seems based on streaming, I assume it also has storage, but numbers aren't mentioned.

Streaming, as I said, seems to be a big deal with this device, tapping into the Remote Play technology that's been around for a while to allow you to play PC games on this, presumably in much the same way as the PSP/Vita allows as well as the Wii U, though hopefully from a further distance than the Wii U allows.  That much is fairly impressive if it works as flawlessly as one could hope - being able to take advantage of a PC's full power in visuals and such for a PC game on a handheld is something that we're not quite at yet, so even though this is sort of a 'mock' version of it, it's close enough to be a little excited about I think.  Though, I'm not sure just how much streaming will actually hamper what you get on the Shield, so it might be a bit early to consider the possibilities.  Still, mobile Far Cry 3, mobile Assassin's Creed (if you're not into Assassin's Creed 3:  Liberation for some stupid reason that is also dumb) and so on and so forth is a tantalizing prospect, provided the streaming works with -all- PC games, ones that are on Steam, Origin or otherwise, and not just some.

The big issues here are pretty simple:  reliability and price.  Make no mistake about it - this is going to be a powerful handheld, but powerful things, especially electronics and especially especially when related to things of a PC nature have a propensity towards unreliability, and this certainly tips the scales more than that I would say.  Still, maybe that's not so much an issue as the actual form factor of the device seems like it might be built to accommodate power at the expense of comfort.  Price is the sticking point, however as I doubt "being able to play your PC games for 5 hours* on a handheld" is going to translate directly into a rather high price point, though from everything you see here, that's precisely what you would expect.  What I expect, at least, as I just can't come up with a figure in my head that makes this cheap.  It's scheduled to release in the latter half of this year, so I imagine we'll get details before then, but by the time we do, I'm also imagining we'll have completely forgotten about this.  I will, most certainly.

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