Computer Graphics World

March/April 2013

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Page 22 of 51

Gaming n n n n A Grid Peripheral? Announced at Nvidia's 2012 GPU Technology Conference, Grid is the company's approach to an on-demand gaming service. Nvidia claims it will provide advantages over traditional console gaming systems. In addition, it is an "any-device" gaming service, and according to Nvidia, it offers high-quality, low-latency gaming on a PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone, or TV. Nvidia has combined its development of running a game on an x86-based PC with a GeForce graphics add-in board (AIB) and streaming the game to a non-x86 device. That technique uses the non-x86 device as a thin client (TC), allowing the TC to send commands as well as display the streamed results. Except for the latency, which is a function of the network, the user's experience is as if the powerful AIB was in his or her local device – be it a smartphone or tablet. Nvidia has schematized the concept in the Diagram on page 22. What is not shown in the diagram is a picture of the equipment that comprises the (green cloud-like) Grid in the middle. That presumably will be a generic server with an Nvidia GeForce AIB and Nvidia's lowlatency encoder and fast frame buffer capture technology. According to Nvidia's calculations, Grid will be able to deliver the same throughput and latency as a console. Added to list of devices that can connect to the Grid is the new Project Shield. Further more, through its HDMI output, Project Shield can also drive a large-screen TV as its display, making it even more console-like. A Disruption? But, is any of this disruptive? I think not. Interesting, yes. Clever, yes. Well executed, time will tell. But Nvidia's track record suggests it will be. Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia's charismatic president and founder, said he built Project Shield because no one else was going to make a mobile device like it. He told GamesBeat, "We're not trying to build a console. We're trying to build an Android digital device in the same way that Nexus 7 [users] enjoy books, magazines, and movies. This is an Android device for enjoying games. It's part of your collection of Nvidia is rolling out Project Shield, an Android Tegra-based gaming device that will run titles such as Dead Trigger 2 (top) and Real Boxing 2013 (bottom). Android devices…. The reason why I built this device is because only we can build this device." If only Nvidia can build the device, and if the device only runs from an Nvidia Grid server, and only on an Nvidia Tegra processor, then Nvidia has built a proprietary, closed garden of sorts. If other services, such as Amazon, Google, Steam, or Origin, take up the Grid, then it will be more catholic. However, until other providers embrace Grid, the performance on Project Shield may be less than stellar, or Nvidia will have to become a streaming game service like Microsoft, Sony, and others. That could be a licensing nightmare and suck enormous resources from the company – not something Huang will undertake lightly. Nvidia thinks it is a bit of a stretch to compare Project Shield to closed-garden consoles. Although Grid is a component in the marketing of Project Shield, it is not the main component. Nvidia sees Project Shield as an Android device player. Assuming the content distribution part of the equation can be worked out – and I have no doubt it will be if it hasn't already been – Nvidia wouldn't have made these announcements with an empty gun, and the adoption of Project Shield becomes one of economics. Huang has indicated he is not interested in the hardware-subsided game console model, nor should he be since he does not own any content. Therefore, Project Shield has to sell for cost-of-goods (COG) plus margin, and Nvidia has plenty of pressure from investors about maintaining margin. By my reckoning, the COG of Project Shield is about $175. Therefore, to allow some margin for distributors and resellers, the unit will probably sell for $250 to $300, which is about twice as much as an add-on controller device like the MOGA, but almost the same as the PhoneJoy's expected price. Smartphones with 5.3-plus-inch, 1280x768 screens will challenge Project Shield's 5-inch, March/April 2013 CGW0313-Game Devicespfin.indd 21 21 3/14/13 12:14 PM

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