I’m right in the sweet spot of Nvidia’s target demographic for Shield. I’m a hard core gamer, I play mainly console games and not as much PC games. Life and career have taken more time and its been harder to find the time to play video games like I once did. This is why the promise of a true mobile console experience has always interested me.
This is why I was very interested when Nvidia announced Shield. I was skeptical I’ll be honest, and a bit surprised. But I remained optimistic because of what I know about Nvidia and how hopeful I am that someone will actually deliver on the mobile console promise.
I’ve been playing with Shield for a while now and I have to say I am impressed.
Some Thoughts on the Hardware
First off the hardware is excellent. The controller feels very much like an XBOX controller, which I would argue is the best controller around. ((This is subjective of course, but the overall feel in my hand and the “just right” stiffness of the joysticks is perfect for me)). If you have spent many hours gaming with the XBOX controller, you will feel right at home with the Shield controls.
Second, the screen is fantastic. I’ve used all the latest and greatest Android devices and the screen on the Shield and although its resolution and PPI isn’t has high as devices like the Galaxy S4, to the naked eye it feels extremely close. Which means the games and whole visual experience are top notch.
The biggest question here is games on Android. Nvidia chose the Android operating system to run Shield because of Androids open nature. There is no question in my mind that more immersive games will come to mobile devices, but I’ve felt for some time that a controller experience was necessary for this to fully happen. Now that Nvidia has released Shield and that Shield delivers a truly mobile console experience in my opinion, the ingredients are there for console game developers to start taking mobile more seriously.
There are already a handful of Shield Optimized Android games, and like all new console launches I anticipate this number to grow and because Shield is built on Android, I expect the amount of Shield optimized games to grow faster than any other mobile gaming console to this point.
Interestingly, although there are about two dozen Shield optimized games already there are many more in the Android market that work already given their support for third party game controllers.
One last point. In using Shield, I have had the most positive expereince with Android yet. Not only is it a pure implementation running stock Jelly Bean, but In the many of the entertainment use cases Shield is focused on brings to light some of the best of Android. Android is great on Smartphones and tablets, but in my opinion, its even better on Shield.
A Bit of Nostalgia
Although, there is a fair amount of content already available to play on Shield, being built on Android has its advantages. Namely that given its open nature there are very good Nintendo and Super Nintendo Emulators for Android. I downloaded my favorite, SuperGNES, and loaded up the games I have been using on the Galaxy S4 I have. Namely, Super Punchout, Street Fighter II, Mario Kart, and Super Mario World. Low and behold, right out the gate every one worked with the Shield controller with no modification or customization. So here I am now playing Street Fighter II and Super Punchout with the glory of using a game controller.
Having access to all the Nintendo games I know and love, and grew up with, and being able to use a game controller with them, was perhaps the most eye opening experience for me in using Shield.
Beyond the games, there are other benefits for being built on Android that showcase a device like Shield’s advantage over a more closed mobile console gaming experience. Being built on Android opens the door for other unique hardware accessory expereinces to benefit Shield. One in particular I want to highlight. And that is using Shield to fly my Parott AR Drone.
Yes, I have one of those drones, and it is one of my favorite gadgets / toys. You may not know this but the AR Drone has a number of augmented reality games available for it. Games where you use the camera to shoot digital objects in the air or the ground. Or games where you race through a digital course in the physical world. All of these experiences through a touch screen are possible but made all the better using a physcical game controller. To say that Shield has profoundly impacted my flying ability with my AR Drone would be an understatement.
This brings up a broader point. We are seeing a number of electronics like this, whether RC cars, planes, etc., come with software for smart phones. Being able to use Shield as a game controller with some of hardware expereinces like these may open up some doors that were not possible before.
Things to Consider
For us gaming enthusiasts we are faced with a difficult holiday season. This is the first time in a while when the holiday season will feature simultaneous avaialablity of the two top gaming consoles in their launch year. Most of us can’t afford them all this holiday season.
However, if a mobile console gaming experience is a priority for you then strongly consider Shield. It is the best mobile gaming console experience I have encountered. And as I stated there is a big potential upside being built on Android. I strongly believe it is only a matter of time before console first game developers shift to a mobile first development focus. This does not mean they will only develop for mobile device, only that they will embrace the mobile first strategy. Android will clearly benefit from this move and inevitably so will Shield.
Shield may be the most future proof mobile gaming console to hit the market yet. And as I pointed out, playing Nintendo games, using to fly drones, etc., are all icing on the cake.