How NVIDIA can win with the SHIELD 2

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I have so many mixed feelings about the NVIDIA SHIELD. Most do.

It was such an intriguing product – at least in theory – at first.

Some of its specifications are drool-worthy. Specifically, the Tegra 4. In my short time with the device, the Tegra 4 was a monster chip. Clocked at 1.9GHz, the quad-core Cortex A15 CPU, paired with the 72-core GeForce GPU, blew through the most graphically intense games found on Android without a problem – hot knife through butter. It also has 2GB RAM, 16GB of fixed storage, a microSD card slot, massive 28.8Wh battery, a 5-inch 720p LCD, and some massive inbuilt speakers. It comes with some basic features, such as Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, 3-axis gyro and accelerometer, and mini-HDMI out.

On paper, its specs weren’t entirely cutting-edge. Not to mention, it’s heavy and bulky. It weights a massive 579g and it’s 57mm thick – two factors which don’t exactly help its portability in the least. But you can’t overlook the fact that the SHIELD is effectively an ergonomic gaming controller with a display attached and the guts of a supercharged smartphone crammed inside.

Simply put, if you wanted to take Android gaming to the next level, the NVIDIA SHIELD was most definitely the device for you, so long as you could stomach the price.

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And that’s exactly why the SHIELD, by its very own nature, was a flawed product from the start. Android gaming. It’s a pretty theoretical, but it’s not there yet. Case in point: OUYA.

I explained back in August that Android-powered gaming systems, handheld or consoles, suffer from fragmented system support, individual content stores, and, frankly, an underdeveloped game catalog. Underdeveloped doesn’t quite do the mobile gaming system complete justice, though. There are thousands upon thousands of games to choose from – of which only 300 or so are officially supported on devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD. But what I truly mean by “underdeveloped” is not the number of games available, but rather the depth of those games.

I also explained this in December. Despite a few older console ports, such as legacy Grand Theft Auto titles, Crazy Taxi, and other such nostalgic games, most mobile games don’t hold a candle to their console counterparts. Take the Call of Duty franchise. It’s unbelievably popular on dedicated consoles; the stories are relatively (and comparatively) in-depth. If you look at Call of Duty: Strike Team on mobile, the game simply isn’t of the same caliber.

That’s fine. It’s expected. This isn’t NVIDIA’s fault. It’s the relative newness of mobile gaming. That said, it’s the main reason the SHIELD never took off quite like NVIDIA would have hoped. But there was also another major factor in the stale market performance of the SHIELD: price.

Here we are eight months after its launch and it’s suffered two price cuts, not including the pre-launch price drop. Originally announced at $349, it actually launched at $299. But many felt $300 was still too high for a mobile gaming device, even if you could stream PC games to the handheld through GameStream (so long as your PC rig meets the requirements). Now the SHIELD can be had for just $199, through the end of April.

portal-shieldAlongside the price drop announcement, however, NVIDIA also announced remote streaming, so you can now stream from anywhere, provided you have the proper equipment. Also, the SHIELD will be receiving its KitKat update, as well as an official port of the original Portal game.

Suffice it to say, the SHIELD has been given the second wind it so desperately needed. This new, lowered (albeit temporary) price is much more tolerable and easy to justify, especially if you want to play something like Skyrim on the go (or from bed, for that matter).

I, for one, have had one sitting in my cart all day on NVIDIA’s online store. I wanted one at launch, but never would have ponied up the $300. I really enjoyed my short time with it, and I’ve been torn over the idea of buying one ever since.

Even the new pricing isn’t perfect, though. Our own Stephen Schenck told me, “I can’t do it. Not at $200. $150 – maybe. Below $150? No contest, sign me up.”

And even at $100 off, I’m still having a hard time pulling the trigger, for a few different reasons. One, I don’t have a PC, so I sadly can’t use the awesome GameStream function. Also, it’s still just a mobile gaming handheld, so it doesn’t have serious AAA titles, only games like Dead Trigger, Asphalt, or Modern Combat 4, which are hardly worth buying a dedicated device for. And, of course, $200 for a dedicated gaming device is hard to justify when my Moto X or Nexus 7, paired with a MOGA Pro gamepad, can do the job just fine.

However, the point is, NVIDIA is on to something with the SHIELD. It turned heads and it’s made many take mobile gaming – a little – more seriously. There may not be any AAA titles for mobile yet, but Android is the natural progression of mobile gaming.

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If NVIDIA can find a better balance of specifications, portability, and price, the SHIELD 2 could be a seriously impressive device. It’s already confirmed to be shipping with a new Tegra chip. (So long, Tegra 4!) But frankly, the SoC wasn’t an issue to begin with. Strictly in terms of hardware, I’d like to see NVIDIA pack in some more impressive specs, such as a 1080p or 2K display, 3 or 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, and maybe a larger battery (why not, right?).

It’d also be a smart move on NVIDIA’s part to partner with a major game developer (or a few) to bring a major title to the SHIELD devices. I remember SOCOM being one of my favorite PSP titles. (Hint, hint.) If NVIDIA were to pull this off and keep the SHIELD 2 pricing around $250 (from the start, not after a few price cuts), I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Portal is a nice start, but old ports aren’t going to pull me in – or anyone else, for that matter. We want to see something new, something exclusive, or something relevant. That may be a lot to ask, but NVIDIA is also asking a lot of a still unproven market.

Much over $250, and it’ll be another non-starter, especially when you have devices like the Nexus 7 starting lower than that. Price point is the make or break, and NVIDIA whiffed the firs time around. Hard.

Tell me, ladies and gents. What would NVIDIA have to do to interest you in the SHIELD 2? Lower price? Better game titles? A little bit of both? Or are you the typical naysayer who thinks mobile gaming is doomed forever?

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+