Thoughts about the nVidia Shield

If only there was a way for me to be a fly in the meeting rooms of nVidia the past months, listening to the discussions about their newly announced gaming console “The Shield”.

What made them decide to take the bold step of venturing into the portable gaming market when there’s already 2 established devices with huge amount of diffuculty to sell to a market deeply under a spell from tablets/phones?

Is it this really the right time to release a new portable gaming device?

What is it that they think they can do different compared to the experienced competition?

nVidia is a hardware maker, so looking at The Shield’s hardware specs would be the first thing to examine.The easiest to describe the specs is to compare the device’s parts is:

  • CPU/GPU to that of a Vita souped up gaming phone, capable of rendering games with almost the amount of detail and effects as you’d get form the current generation of consoles.
  • Packed in to a Xbox 360 controller, giving you faster controls for the more traditional types of games.
  • A 720p built in HD monitor with multi touch to cater to more modern, touch based games.
  • Built with an included Android OS for an already proven platform for developers and marketplace for customers to use.

If we look at the current status of the mobile gaming market, currently dominated by apple phones and tables, there is still two players struggling for second place and the hearts of the hardcore players. One of these is the Sony Vita.

The Vita’s hardware specifications and software wowed people at launch, claiming that tech has gone so far as to miniaturize the raw power of the stationary consoles in to a pocket format.

But to convince more than the already preaching hardcore players, they needed more than spin-offs of existing franchises to keep the sales going beyond launch months.

A certain half eaten fruit had taken root among the Japanese makers cogs, made the platforms look blind and outdated while it’s chewing at their hoped to be cake.

With no new software release on the platform, consumers consider it dead. With no customers on the platform, developers consider it dead. That’s when you start to look at your first party studios to help you out, and that’s exactly what Nintendo had to do with their own handheld, the 3DS last year. But there is one major drawback to this, which Nintendo has struggled with since the NES and SNES era.

You then start to compete directly with your customers, whom is supposed to thrive and breathe extra life in what one may perceive as an incestuous market, impossible to penetrate.

To end this rant, I’d like to point out that I really appreciate the competition nVidia and Valve can bring to the established players, and quickly make them learn from the how the climate has changed over the past few years, and create platforms with the following minimum criteria for the next generations:

  • A range of games that spreads out to both hardcore and casual gamers.
  • A greater variety of prices for games (both in the form of seasonal sales and ios / android pricing models).
  • A variety of games we have not already as well be playing on our already owned machines. And if released games that already exist in other ecosystems, far better production values ​​(graphics / sound / band signaling) or discount.
  • An ecosystem where developers have full control over pricing in order to compete with Steam’s huge title sales each quarter or iOS / Android very volatile pricing of products.
  • Update Frequencies based on developer needs.
  • Development tools that allow portability to the plethora of market places outside your own.
  • Support from popular middleware manufacturers Unity, Epic (Unreal Engine) and Crytek.
  • Support for small development teams / indie studios.

It remains to be seen how much of a dent nVidia will actually make.

As you may understand, the hardware is proably what nVidia will be hyping up the most with this new machine (with them being a hardware developer and licenser).

But is hardware specs alone what really what sells consoles?

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Steam deal for Doom 3 BFG made me want to try out Quake 2 again..

Booted the game up and after a few tweaks in the video options screen.

Remember, the game's got a separate video-options screen directly under the main menu!

Instead of heading on out on a single player nostalgia trip, I started wondering how the game's online community's doing now?

Seeing as this was one of the first games I ever started playing online (this was at the time Microsoft had a matchmaking client named msn gaming zone, precursor to XBL?), I was thriIled about maybe finding a server or two with some hot q2dm1 action going on.

To my surprise, finding an active server was extremely easy, as one of the first result of googling "quake 2 server list" led me straight to q2servers.com where I even saw a Swedish server among the top most active.

So there I find myself, with 4 other players wondering how the hell I ended up in their little corner of the world. Immediately I start to recognize what's so different about what I'm experiencing here, as to what we define as the norm in online games now.

Instead of just owning me to oblivion and rant about how useless I am at the game, my mother's their private prostitutes or why I won't just shrivel up in the corner and kill myself. Both the admins and other players start to give me tips about how to navigate his home brew server scripts and how not to "almost dodge" dodge their rockets.

As time goes by, the admin starts to describe how he's still hosting the game on a pentium 3, running windows 2000, and plays the game on a similarly speced PC with a Riva TNT card. Almost the exact same configuration I played around with in my early teens, making custom maps with Qoole and hosting them on my 56k modem, with opponents complaining about how "laggy" my map was.

So, there was a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of realization...

With gaming having an entirely new level of reach to players, and the ability to host dedicated servers declining.. Are these sort of community's forever lost in old titles?

Are we going to see people playing the games of today with the same type of open community feel?

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