Nvidia’s Project Shield handheld was one of the biggest surprises at CES this year. As it turns out, the device went from idea to live demo in less than a year. The development process has been chronicled in an Nvidia blog post that reveals a few interesting details about the product’s origins and how it came to be.
One revelation is that some developers have been pushing Nvidia to develop its own gaming console "for years." Making the graphics chips inside the original Xbox and the PlayStation 3 doesn’t count, I guess. Project Shield very much seems like a response to traditonal game consoles, and Nvidia isn’t exactly subtle about making a case for the handheld’s superiority. The blog post even takes a couple of shots at the "walled-garden ecosystem" of console software, noting that Shield’s native Android OS and ability to stream games from local PCs makes for a much more open environment.
While Nvidia has a point on that front, its assertion that Project Shield can take advantage of thousands of existing Android games that won’t run on consoles falls a little flat. Sure, the next-gen consoles rumored to be built with AMD hardware will have limited game libraries when they’re released. However, you can’t really compare Android games to the blockbuster titles that always accompany consoles. Project Shield’s ability to stream PC games from local systems is really what makes the device a credible competitor to next-gen consoles.
The blog post reads more like a sales pitch than a development diary, but it’s still nice to see the engineers who worked feverishly on the project getting some credit for their efforts. The first prototype was apparently quite humble: a smartphone linked to a game controller with some wood. Nvidia turned that into the polished product shown at CES using solely its own staff. With that kind of talent in-house, rumors that the company could be developing its own tablets and smartphones don’t seem so outlandish.