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CES 2013: Nvidia shows off mobile gaming device

Nvidia's "Project Shield" is a mobile gaming device. (Courtesy of Nvidia/Courtesy of Nvidia)

Nvidia is starting off CES with a bang, showing off a new concept device at Sunday’s pre-show kickoff event. Codenamed “Project SHIELD,” the new gadget resembles a console game controller with a screen, but is designed to give PC gamers a way to play more easily from anywhere in their homes.

Project SHIELD is an Android device and can stream PC games from any computer with a Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics processing unit as well as titles from the gaming platform Steam. Project SHIELD is designed to work with Steam’s big picture mode, which lets users put their PC games on their televisions, and use the console-like controller for better gameplay.

It will also be able to download Android games, including those optimized for the company’s processor in the Nvidia’s “TegraZone” game store.

The 5-inch screen has a retina display that will be able to stream high-definition and ultra high-definition content, and makes use of Nvidia technology that will adapt the display to the type of game users are playing. CNET’s Roger Cheng reported that the device is set to launch in the second quarter of this year.

The driving thought behind the device, said Nvidia co-founder and chief executive officer Jen-Hsun Huang, is to give gamers a dedicated gadget that gives them easy access to a large library of digital-only games.

“We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way,” the executive said in a statement. “We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.”

Nvidia already has some content partners on board, including Ubisoft, Epic Games and Meteor Entertainment, all of whom had high praise for the device’s screen quality.

Reaction to the device was good, if only for the surprise factor — most people were simply expecting Nvidia to tout the features of its next Tegra chip.

The details are still sketchy, of course, but it does seem like kind of an odd device for the company to make. Video game handhelds such as Nintendo’s 3DS, and Sony’s Playstation Vita haven’t exactly been hitting it out of the park. Incorporating mobile gaming into the device makes a lot of sense, as that’s one area of gaming that has grown quickly in the smartphone era.

But it’s not clear from Nvidia’s announcement whether the device will have anything other than a WiFi receiver. If the device is more or less tied to streaming in the home, it runs the risk of being somewhat of a hard sell to consumers. It’s certainly a device to watch, however, as digital distribution becomes a bigger part of gaming — particularly as some predict physical game consoles are headed the way of the dinosaur.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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