Can The NVIDIA Shield Establish Trust In The Android Platform?

Sony was known mostly as a hardware manufacturer, who after a botched deal with Nintendo decided to enter the video game market for themselves.  Nvidia seems to be taking a page out of their book, as they release their new Shield Console; an Android-based streaming box that promises outstanding graphics for a reasonable price.
The website touts that it’s ‘made to game’, and that it’s ‘the world’s first android tv console’, but this claim is slighting some other established micro-consoles.  Several Android-based gaming consoles with streaming options have been available for awhile, including the Ouya, GameStick and the soon to be released Razer Forge TV.
The question becomes what separates the Shield from its competitors and is the console going to be worth its $199 asking price?  The Shield does support some very interesting functions, such as streaming HD games, playing up to 4K video, 7.1 surround, and its cross-platforming Grid service, but is all that enough to entice people from investing their cash in their more traditional outlets?

The consoles specs are impressive.  It features a NVIDIA Tegra X1 dual quad-core Processor, a 256 Core Maxwell GPU and 3 gigabytes worth of ram.  It offers 16 gigabytes worth of storage, which for micro-consoles should be enough since the console is focusing more on streaming.  The system does connect out with 2 USB 3.0 ports, plus has Micro USB and SD options, so external hard drives are an option.

The box is super compact and sits at just over 8 inches in length, smaller than the slim PS2 in size.  Its controller appears to be comfortable, taking cues from Microsoft in button layout, but adding a few unique features of their own.  According to the website, the controller recharges with 40 hours of life, allows headphone support, Google Voice recognition and can even work with their other portable shield devices.  Some concerns could be raised over the controller working on Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, but they may have learned from Ouya’s mistakes of cheaping out on the hardware.

The game library will most likely be on par with other Android consoles, meaning most AAA titles won’t appear on the service, at least until hardcore gamers decide it’s decent enough place to invest their money into.  Their streaming service is interesting, and offers cross-platform DRM sharing with Steam, which could bring PC gamers to their couches, but this may be short lived with Valve’s Machine coming out soon as well.

The other major hurdle for Shield and other Android-based systems is the lack of a killer app.  Microsoft got in with Halo, Sony with Crash- but Android needs that game that’s going to convince its audience that the Shield is a must have.  With Valve set to release their console, even at its huge $450 price point, it’s conceivable gamers will buy it for any installments of their Team Fortress, Portal and Half-Life properties they have under their belt.

The market is also at risk of becoming flooded, with every hardware developer taking the accessible Android OS and throwing their chips on the table in a frantic rush for their first-mover advantage.  This has been seen as a lack of thought in design and technology that’s outdated as soon as it hits the shelf.  If Nvidia is going to do this right, they need to make sure the software is accessible, and its hardware is ready for the long run.

There are many things left unknown about this new console. Will they allow modding of the system, as the Ouya does, or will users be confined to the settings the system has?  Can we use other controllers on the console?  All these questions will hopefully be answered in the weeks leading up to its slated May release.

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