Opinion: For Project Shield to succeed, Nvidia needs to make TegraZone work
6 million app downloads but little discovery
Amid yesterday's fuss about Nvidia's Project Shield portable console announcement, an interesting figure was revealed.
Pointing out that the console would push gamers to its dedicated TegraZone store for games optimised for the Tegra chipset - currently available on both Android and Windows RT - the company said TegraZone had "already delivered more than 6 million downloads to gamers".
Actually, what Nvidia seems to mean - as you can see from the download graph on Google Play - is that its free TegraZone app has been downloaded 6 million times.
As we confirmed at Gamescom 2012, the download total last summer was four million.
Placed in context
We don't know how many games have been sold/downloaded via TegraZone (it could be six million if each app download resulted in a game download, but that seems unlikely as I'll argue), as we can make some educated guesses about the portal's success to-date.
TegraZone was launched almost two years ago and at time of writing has 67 games listed.
That's within an overall ecosystem in which Google is activating 1.5 million Android devices daily and has seen around 30 billion app and games downloaded from Google Play, which contains over 700,000 individual titles.
In that context, six million downloads suddenly doesn't seem many.
In Nvidia's defence, Tegra devices didn't hit mass market volumes until the release of the Nexus 7 seven months ago, while the vast majority of the games listed on TegraZone are paid - not a business model that works on Android.
Of course, all the games on TegraZone are also available direct from Google Play. It doesn't contain exclusive content.
Call to action
No doubt this was one of thoughts behind the Project Shield initiative, which is more than just hardware. It's about Nvidia leveraging its hardware expertise into a wider service-lead approach.
Purchased by hardcore gamers willing to spend money for performance and gameplay experience, the dedicated gaming device will at least have a self selecting audience that should use TegraZone.
But with user acquisition, distribution and retention remaining big issues for developers, Nvidia will need to ensure TegraZone works much, much harder in 2013 if it expects Project Shield to be more than just a CES headline.
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