Developers on Project Shield: Nvidia's 'bold' move will help mobile play in the big league

Putting mobile front and centre

Developers on Project Shield: Nvidia's 'bold' move will help mobile play in the big league
If Ouya and its attempt to expand Android beyond smartphones appeared something of a risky venture in 2012, then the first weeks of 2013 have seen the rest of the industry rushing to follow its lead.

Undoubtedly, devices that look to export the mobile gaming experience to other mediums – whether the handheld or the smart TV – are going to help define the direction the industry takes this year.

Nvidia's Project Shield, then, may have taken the press by surprise, but if our sweep of developer opinion is anything to go by, it perfectly taps into the current narrative.

Success or failure, Shield - which combines a 5-inch touchscreen with an Xbox 360-esque controller - appears to makes perfect sense to developers.

'Bold move'

"Nvidia's Project Shield is a bold move in an already highly competitive tablet market," Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi told us via email.

"While the success of this device in the living room is still to be determined, this is further evidence that gamers view mobile as front and centre in their platform experiences."

That, it appears, is the overriding opinion of the kind of developers likely to utilise Project Shield – studios behind 'graphically rich' releases.

There's no guarantee Shield will take off - and, indeed, commentators have been quick to point out potential issues aplenty – but the concept behind it is a logical one.

It plays to the idea that 2013 will be the year when mobile gaming breaks out.

The extra edge

"Its an interesting move by Nvidia and we'd be happy to support the device," added Swedish developer Mediocre, behind the likes of Granny Smith and Sprinkle, who believes its ability to stream PC games "gives the device an extra edge".

"There is an industry shift going on in mainstream gaming from traditional consoles to mobile devices," the firm noted.

"It will be a slow transition but initiatives like this will be important steps in the process."

For some, then, Project Shield may just be another step along the road to a far wider smartphone assault on handhelds and the living room. For others, however, Nvidia's strength mean it could prove to be the real deal.

"We learned about Shield just today and our first take is that PC games streaming on a handheld sounds awesome," said Fishlabs MD Michael Schade, at the start of the week.

"Of course, we are even more excited about the power of Tegra 4 and no doubt we'd like to bring Galaxy on Fire 2 HD to as many Tegra 4 powered devices as possible. In particular as we know from the PC version how great the game experience is if you play it with a game pad.

Galaxy on Fire 2 on Xperia Play

"However, as with every Android-based gaming platform targeting core gamers - Ouya, Xperia Play - Nvidia needs to ship a lot of devices to make it worthwhile to bring high production value games to Shield.

"That's because, in particular, core gamers know how to bypass the premium business model and F2P only works if the install base is at least ten fold compared to traditional consoles," he ended. 

A matter of time

It's Schade's belief that Nvidia's footprint and its "success" with its app platform TegraZone – an area where PocketGamer.biz editor-at-large Jon Jordan believes the firm needs to make improvements – means the company is "positioned much better than anybody else in the Android space."

Likewise, German studio  MobileBits too thinks that Shield may have all the answers, noting that it will be optimising its title SoulCraft for play on the device because of the addition of a "real controller".

"We test the game with an Xbox Controller on a PC, and its almost no effort to support the device," the developer added.

"Nvidia has the developer relations to bring high quality content to the device with TegraZone, so there is a good chance this will be successful."

Nvidia's pricing strategy, MobileBits claims, will be crucial, and indeed, so little is actually known about Project Shield that it almost seems absurd to make judgements about it now.

The key takeaway from developers, however, is that even if Project Shield doesn't take the market by storm, something along the same lines will do soon.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.