Nvidia’s Tegra 4 chip might have been leaked a dozen times in the run up to CES 2013, but its Project Shield handheld console was a complete surprise. Powered by the Tegra 4 and rocking a 720p display, the Shield is an Android gaming machine that seems to be flirting with both success and failure. But when you look at the state of the mobile gaming market one thing is clear: Nvidia has all the cards needed to score a big win with the Shield.
The single biggest advantage Shield has is that Nvidia is not stuck developing a content ecosystem for a single device. Sony and Nintendo, for instance, have to sell developers on making games for their singular handhelds. Nvidia is taking a different route by leveraging multiple existing ecosystems rather that starting from scratch.
Project Shield runs full stock Android with Play Store access, and Android gaming has truly taken off in the last year. There are loads of awesome platformers, adventure games, and 3D shoot-em-ups. Many of these titles include controller support (either Bluetooth or wired), and that means the Shield will be ideal for playing the likes of GTA: Vice City, Sonic, and Need for Speed. There are hundreds of games like this just waiting to grace the Shield’s screen, and Nvidia doesn’t have to lift a finger to make that happen.
Developers don’t need to be convinced to make these games. Android accounts for roughly 75% of smartphone shipments and Google activates over 1.3 million devices every single day. No one has to worry about whether or not there will be game available for the Shield. The calculation is based on Android’s success, and that’s an easy call for plenty of devs.
As you mentioned price still seems to be the sticking point for all the pundits and somehow has become the de facto tipping point for it's success. I am on the fence myself about this and, of course, the internet is a blaze with predictions and guesstimations a like. However, I can't imagine the price is going to be impeditive - if they are truly aiming at rolling out a new device every year and a 24 month upgrade cycle for it's users.
A reasonably priced packaging of the Shield with the latest video card that would entice and enable the user to experience the shield to its fullest performance capabilities is the most likely marketing scenario.