NVIDIA’s Project SHIELD Connects Disparate Gaming Worlds

by Patrick Moorhead   |   January 8th, 2013

Even before CES 2013 officially began, NVIDIA announced a new product that rocked the gaming world.  NVIDIA announced Project SHIELD, an NVIDIA-branded mobile gaming device that connects different world of gaming, across modes, displays and content.

My first visual impression of SHIELD when I saw it was that it looked like a high end portable game controller used with an XBOX with a 5”, fold out display. The user holds it with both hands, pistol-grip style, with access to all the different kinds of buttons you would expect.  While the controller does look very cool, what is most interesting is the gaming flexibility it provides.

Connects Small and Large Display Gaming

Gamers can display their games on two displays, the integrated display and to an HDTV.  The integrated display is 5”, 1,280×720 resolution, and is adjustable for optimal viewing angle.  When not gaming, it folds down to protect itself.  Gamers can also display on the big screen, too, up to a 4K display.  This can be done wirelessly or via an HDMI cable.  Wireless display is accomplished via a dongle that connects into the HDMI port of the HDTV.  Essentially, the gameplay is encoded into a an H.264 video stream and sent to the TV in a similar fashion as Apple  AirPlay.

Connects Android and Windows PC Gaming

One of the biggest differentiators in gaming is that players can play Android and Windows PC games.  Android gaming is very straight-forward.  Just download a game from Google Play and you play it.  If you ever had an Android device like a Nexus 7 or HTC One X+ Android phone and purchased a game there, you can also play that same game on SHIELD.

SHIELD also plays Windows PC games, too, which is very distinct, something no other portable game device can do.  NVIDIA’s desired PC experience is straight-forward, while the technology behind the scenes is complex. In SHIELD-mode, the gamer slides the carousel to “PC” games where they are presented with a list of PC games.  They click the game and they play it, it’s that simple. The user never sees Windows Metro or the start screen or anything that resembles a PC.

Behind the scenes, the game is actually being played on a remote PC in the house and images are being transmitted to SHIELD or the HDTV.  It uses technology similar to that used on remote desktop applications, where the image is encoded into an H.264 video. The games are screened by Nvidia to make sure that they work well on the HDTV so the quality of service is better.  Small text could be a bit of a challenge in some games, but as devs realize they can expand their gameplay to SHIELD, they will accomodate by scaling the text to be used on the 5″ display.

I very much hope that the experience is as smoothe as NVIDIA desires, because if there are a few hiccups, gamers will stop using the Windows PC gaming function, one of SHIELD’s biggest differentiators.

Connects Portable and Console Gaming   

Finally, when you add up the fact that SHIELD can operate on the small screen, big screen, can be used as comfortably in the living room as it is in the car, it really is as, as NVIDIA’s Jen-Hsung says, a “portable console.”  While first designed as a portable gaming device, it really does beg the question on why you would need a gaming console as long as SHIELD works as planned and has access to the best titles.  Many hard core gamers will have both SHIELD and a gaming console, but where money is tight or consumers want just one device, they may choose SHIELD.

NVIDIA’s SHIELD a Success?

SHIELD is undoubtedly a major disruptor, but there are many things we don’t know yet, like price and distribution, to yield a market verdict.  What I can say is that if the experience is as good as presented, there will be very high levels of interest across “gamers” and consumers who really like to play games.  Nvidia plans to ship SHIELD in Q2 of this year and as soon as I get my hands on one, I will let you know about the quality of the experience.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • Defendor

    My initial reaction last night was: Wow.

    Then the more I thought about it, the more I think this will be a failure. It seems to be largely a collection of gimmicks, married to questionable core functionality.

    The Play PC games feature (gimmick): ———————————————-

    This only works if you have one the most recent NVidia 6 series graphics cards to do the real time X264 encoding. This immediately relegates this to a a very small niche.

    Not to mention that as PC gamer, I can’t think of a single PC game that would actually be playable on a 5″ screen. All of the game elements designed for much larger screens would just be too tiny. Perhaps you could play Angry birds for PC, but why?

    Also you could do this for some time with any Android device with Splashtop, and that isn’t limited to current NVidia 6 series GPU systems.

    Play Games on your TV feature: ———————

    Not new, any android device with HDMI port can do this.

    The interesting feature is the HDMI dongle. Will it even be included or is it additional cost? I bet the latter.

    I would be more excited with a standard Wifi-HDMI dongle to output any device to your TV (with appropriate drivers/SW). If I am thinking this, so are others. Even then this is niche.

    Core feature. Portable Android game machine: —————————-

    With the gimmicks out of the way, what we have is a portable Android gaming machine, with some problems.

    1: It won’t fit in a pocket! If I want something to pass the time when I have to wait somewhere, it MUST fit in my pocket. We have a not so portable, portable.

    2: It is not subsidized by games, so it will likely be quite expensive. People who already have a tablet/phone to play portable android games on, will really have a hard time dropping another $300 on dedicated android game machine. Adding a controller to what they already have would make more sense.

    3: (edit): It is launching into another dying space. The dedicated portable gaming machine.

    IMO the higher price, will limit impulse buys and when buyers think it through, they will realize this really doesn’t give them much that they actually want for the money.

  • http://twitter.com/bradpdx Brad Price

    So at the heart of this is a screen sharing technology that allows users to play games that live on their clunky old Windows PC in another room? That doesn’t strike me as the least disruptive, it displaces no one, least of all people who already game on Android tablets. It only keeps an aging technology (Windows) slightly alive. How is this a game-changer?

    Caveat: I do not understand the game market on a primary user level, as I do not like to play video games of any sort. OK, Scrabble. But that’s it.