At CES, Nvidia shocked the world by announcing two game-related endeavours. I take a look and see if the company could in fact become the next big name in games.

No-one saw that coming.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, known affectionately as CES, brings some pleasant surprises and utter disappointments for the masses to share. Only recently has video game technology entered the foray there, and this past weekend dropped a bombshell: Nvidia is ramping up its game division.

The company is working hard hammering out details on a new cloud-based gaming platform, gathering international partners and the like. But the second announcement swiftly came: Nvidia is developing a dedicated games handheld code-named “Shield“. (Click that link to a Kotaku article with pictures and details.)

For other companies to enter the games discussion is not entirely surprising, considering a fading console generation and merging technologies. Nvidia, a company famous for its GPUs, is a relatively small name in the games market, never expressing interest beyond that point.

Competition for the cloud is heating up

Even though news surrounding cloud gaming services is not the prettiest (OnLive tanking and Sony acquired Gaikai), other companies staking their claim in the blossoming technology is an encouraging sign. Corporate backing means confidence in the tech, and if companies are to compete with existing console manufacturers, cloud usage is increasingly becoming a necessity as the gaming industry converges with technology.

Coming from the unlikeliest of sources, it is unclear whether Nvidia can succeed where others have failed. Improving on the tech, Nvidia says it can serve “up to 36 times from HD-quality game streams” than previous cloud services, while curtailing lag by 30 milliseconds (according to the GI.biz article linked above).

In the company’s favour is timing, as the Grid will become the only capable cloud service available. Whether Nvidia anticipated OnLive and Gaikai imploding is irrelevant, however its Grid platform is the newest example yet, tech grown corporately in-house instead of taken over.

Another handheld to combat Nintendo’s dominance

Whenever a company not known for its gaming voracity introduces a handheld, it is a mixed result. It brings memories of Panasonic’s Jungle, Nokia’s N-Gage and others that spectacularly failed to challenge Nintendo’s reign.

Nvidia is the latest to unveil one, to the surprise of the floor. (To avoid copyright, go to Kotaku for an in-depth glance into how the device looks and its interface.) Pictures show the handheld at just about the size of an Xbox 360 controller, and the Shield features a controller-style layout. Assumedly, that is to attract the console audience.

Running on Android, the Shield also features integration with PC, where Android-based games can play on the small screen or be connected to the TV. No other information was revealed.

The weak popularity of the Vita combined with the supposed downfall of video game sales is prime territory for more companies to enter the fold. With the eighth console generation to begin this year, it will reinvigorate interest in sales and Nvidia plans to be in the middle of that resurgence.

What it all means

Nvidia’s announcement caught the industry off-guard, but circumstantially, their investment makes sense. And this will begin a trend of tech companies entering the games market, seemingly the next plateau. It has been long speculated Apple eventually makes the jump into games, but Nvidia grabbed the opportunity.

If the cloud service and handheld are successful, there is no reason to underestimate the company’s ability to further its interests. A console or something else could be in the framework, but the question remains if four concurrent consoles is inundating the market. It is fun to think about, however.

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  • http://ingamestories.com Matt N

    This really surprises me, but I don’t think it’s an…entirely…bad idea. I personally have no interest in playing my PC games on a tiny handheld screen. However, I do like the idea of being able to stream my PC games to another TV or monitor in a room that is not my computer room. So, if they can make software for my PC and portable hardware that can be easily transported to whatever TV or monitor I want to hook it up to, I can buy into it.

  • Lee Adama

    I just don’t really see who they are targeting with Shield, it’s an interesting concept but it just seems like it’s about 5-8 years too late.

    Given it’s reliance on a computer to do it’s backend computing, it’s not exactly portable since you need to stay within your computer’s network. At that point wouldn’t you just want to game on your computer instead? Most gamers prefer the keyboard/mouse input over a controller for a majority of games (if given the option). And also along those lines that eliminates a lot of multiplayer given the significant disadvantages controllers have vs K/M.

    Though it’s a neat idea to be able to use other TV/monitors I just don’t see that as that great of a reason for this. With as cheap as hardware is nowadays, the people who this is sort of geared for are already building HTPC’s and gaming rig’s for their big screen TV’s. This is aside from the fact that some of the newer TV’s you can now stream your computer’s display to it and all you would need to do is get wireless controller. Maybe a few years ago it would be a compelling reason.

    Streaming content doesn’t matter, TV’s nowadays already stream but even if you don’t have one consoles do that along with any ok netbook or better.

    Maybe being able to game while sitting in bed or a hammock outside but I doubt that would be enough justification to get one. Personally I’d just get a DS or Vita at that point and have true portability.

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