Game News: Is There Room for the Shield? Nvidia Needs to Learn from the Vita.
Not too long ago, I was at PAX East 2013 enjoying the sights, sounds and occasionally smells when I came across a pretty big booth that belonged to Nvidia in the middle of the show floor. There was swag galore being handed out- gigantic pins, bags, t-shirts- it was clear that Nvidia spared no expense to promote their latest product, the Shield. I got to try the handheld out, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed- it felt good to handle and the games showed off both looked nice from a visual standpoint (graphically better than most 3DS games) and made good use of the Shield’s controller. The hardware itself feels solid- it has a good heft, but it doesn’t feel like a brick.
While I’m honestly not the biggest fan of the Shield’s design (it looks like the folks behind the N-Gage never stopped working), I’m curious as to how well it’ll sell in today’s market. The trouble is, it’s not exactly easy to sell a handheld with beefy innards- while at PAX, I saw hundreds of people carrying around the Nintendo 3DS, Streetpassing and gaming and having a good time. As for Sony’s Vita, I think I saw about four or five. It’s not a bad console by any stretch of the imagination, but right now I couldn’t name five great Vita games to save my life. It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s just that barely anybody knows about them. The 3DS, meanwhile, has been doing comparatively well, both in hardware and software sales. Why? Because people know it exists. What does any of this have to do with the Shield?
Nvidia has created a good little handheld with lots of awesome features- you can stream games from your PC to the handheld and play from just about anywhere in your house- it’s like the PC equivalent of a Wii U which is really neat. It’s a solid piece of machinery with a nice user interface and a good selection of games, in addition to all the functionality of an Android-based device. In short, I can’t think of any good reason not to buy one based on what I’ve seen, but then again, I can’t think of a good reason not to buy a Vita. And yet, I don’t really have plans to purchase either. The main issue, for me, is that I’ve been satisfied. Between my Android tablet and my Nintendo 3DS, I feel like my portable gaming needs (well, wants really) have been filled. Sure if I received another handheld as a gift I’d gratefully employ it,but I otherwise don’t feel like running outside my house right now to grab one of these shiny little devices simply because I don’t feel that I’m missing anything.
Is there room in the handheld market for the Shield? I think so. Marketed correctly, it could compete with the Vita, and has potential to become the handheld of PC gamers. The ability to stream games from one’s own PC aims right at the heart of anybody who games on a PC- it’s more pocketable than a laptop, for sure, and it can natively run the Android versions of pre-existing PC games. Waking Mars, Anomaly: Warzone Earth and Superbrothers are great on the PC and also run just fine on Android. Besides these, there’s going to be a rush of quality games coming to Android- not to say that there aren’t any– but the latest influx of high-powered Android devices, such as the Ouya, could result in some real hits for Android, which could put the OS itself in the same running as Windows itself.
At the end of the day, it’s not so much about the hardware as it is about the software and the way it’s marketed. The Atari Lynx had a color screen while the original Gameboy, in it’s monochrome glory, dominated the market thanks to good advertising and Nintendo’s reputation. If Nvidia wants the Shield to succeed, it would probably pay off for them to aim the Shield at PC gamers (they seem to be doing that already) and make people want it. Why would I want to play on a Shield? How are games on the Shield different than games on my tablet or PC? Nvidia needs to give people a good reason to buy the Shield. It’ll be the difference between a runaway success and an expensive failure.