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Who - and what - is Nvidia's Shield for? Exclusive

Who - and what - is Nvidia's Shield for?
July 19, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

Nvidia plans to enter the game device space with its Shield, an Android-powered portable game device that also streams PC games from Nvidia-powered PCs over local wifi networks.

It's an interesting but unusual device, and at $299, it's not trivially cheap, either. To get a bead on who exactly the company believes will be attracted to the platform and why it was put together in the first place, Gamasutra spoke to Mithun Chandrasekhar, technical marketing manager at Nvidia.

Who do you see as the people who will be buying the Shield platform?

Mithun Chandrasekhar: Android gamers and PC gamers. With Shield, we're trying to hit both the birds with one stone, so to speak.

We feel that the path that PC gaming has been taking all this while, Android is following very closely. Developers can come and develop whatever games they want. There are no licensing issues. There are not a bunch of things that can impede their creativity, like on a bunch of other platforms.

So we've already been the pioneers of PC gaming with the GeForce thing for decades now. So we thought, "How can we use that expertise and try and exploit the Android platform?" So it's a culmination of two open platforms: Android and PC.

The way the PC game streaming works, as I understand it, is that you have to have an Nvidia card in your PC, and then it is local. It's not over the internet.

MC: right. So the way it works is that you need to have a GTX 600 or above class GPU-based PC in your home, and you need to have a wifi setup. In theory, as long as you have wifi range, it should work perfectly fine.

To double back to your question as to why it's not over the internet, it's purely latency. In theory, there's nothing stopping us from doing that. I mean, it's bits. It just depends on whether it's on a local network or over the internet, or 4G or 3G. But ultimately, let's take, for example, Borderlands 2. Any first person shooter. You have a latency element to it, so for now we're focusing on wifi.

But potentially, if network speeds improve...

MC: Sure. Why not? But that's the reason. We aren't announcing anything. Again, in theory, it should work.

What is the attraction of having that capability? For PC gamers, why would they want to?

MC: I was talking to a gentleman right now, and they were asking, "Why PC gaming, why not console gaming?" It's always been a compromise. If you want the absolute best, cutting-edge in graphics and all this stuff, you have to go to PC gaming. You don't have a choice. It's the best, right?

But then, a lot of people would like to kick back on their couch with a controller in their hand and take all of that with them. And there wasn't really a solution for that. You had to go console. You had to go to the Dark Side, so to speak.

But then with Shield, you can have the cake and eat it too. Because you have all of the PC goodness on your couch, in your bed, in your kitchen, wherever you want, as long as you have wifi range. It lets you take all of the PC goodness with you. Which is pretty amazing -- nobody has ever done that before this effectively.

This is coming out soon. Retailers are already committed to it. Has there been good response?

MC: We've got really good response. The preorders are up. It will be available at Newegg, Micro Center, GameStop, online at our store, Canada Computers. And for now it's North America, but given the response that we have got, we will be announcing plans. We should be announcing plans for other markets, too.

Who do you see yourself competing with? Obviously this is a much different proposition than an Ouya, but it's sort of in the same space as a PlayStation Vita. Where do you see it?

MC: We actually think that we have a niche, we have a unique market of our own. Because, as I said, a lot of people have been promising Android gaming, but almost every day when I open up a bunch of news, "Oh, so-and-so forth has announced so-and-so Android gaming device," or whatever.

So that's been going on for awhile. No one's taken it seriously as a platform. No one is committed to Android as a gaming platform. So that's where we felt we had -- like we pioneered gaming on the PC, we thought we could do this.

To answer your question, it's not competing with anyone, but it's competing with everyone, kind of a thing.

Because you can't really make a one-to-one comparison to the Vita. Think about it. A lot of people have been asking us, oh, the Vita is just $249, you're $349, boo-hoo. [Ed. Note: this interview was originally conducted shortly before the Shield's price drop to $299.] Buy the Vita and three games. Buy the Shield, and three games. See who comes out on top. It's a no-brainer. And that difference just keeps growing as you keep buying more games, and gamers tend to do that. So, I think it's just such a unique product that it's in a space of its own. It has the potential to disrupt a lot of other competing platforms.

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