It’s CES week, a good week for gadget nerds like me. Nvidia kicked things off last night with a surprise portable gaming console announcement. This is the Shield. It’s a brilliant idea.
Unlike the piles of dedicated Android controller phone attachments (of which I have two, I’ll review or compare them soon), this thing is not for phones, nor is it a phone. It's an all-in-one device that runs what appears to be pure Android, which means it has access to the Google Play store. The screen attached to the controller is a touch screen, so you should be able to play all the Android games you already have, with and without a controller.
That in itself is a good move. I’ve been on the verge of purchasing a tablet for a while now, and what’s held me back from Apple’s and Amazon’s offerings is the Google Play store. I have too many apps and games purchased from that ecosystem. If I’m going to get a tablet, I want to be able to play the things I already own. So not trying to fork the Android ecosystem and create exclusive games is great.
But it gets so much better. The Tegra 4 chip in this thing is capable of streaming games through Steam from a PC (as long as your PC has compatible hardware). Start up your game on the PC and play it on your handheld screen. That’s awesome. Having the Steam integration is what will help elevate this thing above just another Android Bluetooth controller.
Price hasn’t been announced yet, but if it comes in under the $250 a 3DS or Vita goes for, I think it could be a big competitor in the mobile gaming space. Having console-quality games on the go and access to huge low-cost libraries is awesome. I can’t say I’ll pick up one of these, but I will be watching the technology. If the Tegra 4 chip is capable of streaming from Steam, maybe it will make its way into Google’s next Nexus tablet. A full seven inch tablet, HD resolution and the ability to play my Steam games in my bed? Sold. That would mean out of the box, I'd have well over a hundred games to play on it (that's my Steam and Google Play library combined). That beats the pants off my 3DS collection of four games.