Announced this week, the new NVIDIA Shield isn’t a handheld gaming console or new graphics card. Instead, it’s a video game console using the power of servers around the world and Google’s Android TV software to challenge the PS4 and Xbox One in the living room.
Developers got their first look at NVIDIA Shield this week at GDC 2015. That’s the Game Developer Conference that brings game makers and platform makers together to make new announcements, talk about big platform changes and share best practices. The NVIDIA Shield is a dark black and angular box with a bright green strip that makes the console look more distinctive. The company is comparing the Shield to the smartphone and smart televisions.
Inside the NVIDIA Shield is a Tegra X1 processor that’s running Google’s Android TV operating system. According to the company, that processor lets the Shield offer 4K video and YouTube streaming easily. NVIDIA is promising that the fast processor will make things native to other devices running Android TV, like browsing the Google Play Store, streaming from other Android devices and voice search. A Maxwell GPU will render games and more. 16GB of storage is included in the NVDIA Shield, but two USB 3.0 ports and a MicroSD card slot should allow uses to add a bit more. The device will include gigabit Ethernet and infrared receiver, Bluetooth and 802.11 AC Wi-Fi for connecting to the internet in places where there isn’t a physical connection.
NVIDIA is betting that users will want to download some of the 50 Android titles that it’ll have available for the NVIDIA Shield at launch. The company is counting HD versions of Crysis 3, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Doom 3 among its coming titles. For those who don’t like those games, there’s something more potent: a dedicated NVIDIA Shield cloud gaming service.
The cloud gaming service is called Grid, and it’ll sound really familiar to anyone and everyone who’s at least heard of Sony’s PlayStation Now service. Anyone with the NVIDIA Shield will be able to connect to NVIDIA Grid and stream the latest titles directly from NVIDIA’s servers. The company is promising to deliver complete 1080p streaming at 60 frames per second for games like Batman: Akrham Knight and Dying Light. It’s also committing to upgrading that list of titles over time. The NVIDIA Shield will come with a single controller and some games will allow for up to four users to play at a time.
All told, NVIDIA – like Valve – is hoping that a mix of apps, devices and services will help it better compete with gaming consoles made by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft. The NVIDIA Shield has some impressive technology, but price and a sustainable ecosystem will be important to anyone who picks up the device. Ironically, it’s press that NVIDIA isn’t ready to talk about yet. The Xbox One costs $349 with the PlayStation 4 costing $399. Other consoles running Google’s Android operating systems have tried to appeal to a wide audience with low prices and that hasn’t worked.
It’s interesting that NVIDIA would be making a play for the console living room space at the same time as Microsoft is preparing for an all-out assault on PC gaming. This week at GDC 2015 the company announced a new Xbox Live SDK that’ll let developers hook into Xbox Live. It’s also promised cross-platform streaming so that Windows 10 users can play their Xbox One games without being right in front of their console.
Microsoft plans to give Windows 10 away to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users absolutely free beginning some time later this year.