A closer look at Nvidia's Project Shield

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

Nvidia's Project Shield can best be described as an Android-powered mobile console that is also capable of streaming games from a Windows PC.

The device - which features a console-like game controller with a dedicated five-inch 720p multi-touch display - is powered by Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra 4 SoC and runs Android Jelly Bean.

"We’re not trying to build a console. We’re trying to build an Android digital device, in the same way that Nexus 7 [users] enjoys books and magazines and movies," Jen-Hsun Huang recently told GamesBeat.

"This is an Android device for enjoying games. It’s part of your collection of Android devices... The reason why I built this device is because only we can build this device."

According to prominent industry analyst Jon Peddie, Nvidia has put itself in competition with its customers by introducing Project Shield. Sony, for example, will certainly perceive the device as competing against its own console and handheld players.

"[However], the fact is none of Nvidia’s partners have the reach into the technology—and the gamer eco-system—that Nvidia does," Peddie explained in a recent industry note obtained by TG Daily.

"Remember, Nvidia got started serving the gamer community, and although it has expanded and brought out lots of other products, it has never lost its relationship to the gamer market. In fact, the game market is the second highest revenue producer for the company."

In any case, says Peddie, Nvidia’s focus with Project Shield raises the bar for native Android gaming by allowing users to extend their gaming experience to anywhere in their house, as the stock Android device offers access to all the Google (Play) apps and rather extensive ecosystem.

However, Peddie also notes that Project Shield, at least in its current iteration, isn't exactly a novel form factor.

"Game controllers that hold a mobile phone or a tablet have been available and/or announced for a while. It is an appealing product and irresistible to pick up; is that enough to make it disruptive? Mobile phones certainly existed before Apple introduced the iPhone, yet not many would dispute it was a transformational and disruptive product—but was it?" Peddie asked rhetorically.

"I think Project Shield will fall into the same category as 3D Surround Vision, or SLI, neat stuff, positions the company as a techno leader, exposes them to other opportunities, and will fade into the background by next CES (January 2014)."

Personally, I think it might be somewhat premature to relegate Project Shield to the silicon dustbin. Indeed, we can probably judge Shield's potential for success by monitoring the mainstream popularity of the Android-powered Ouya console. As previously discussed on TG Daily, I believe the public is more than ready for disruptive Android-based technologies like Ouya and Shield, although again, only time will tell for certain.