Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Console Wars: Xbox 720, PS4 or Steam Box and Project Shield?

Written by David Bowen

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen consoles outside of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony enter the market. Nintendo has been in the fight since the 1980s - initially, competing against Sega. Sony rose and stuck around and later, so did Microsoft. At this year’s CES 2013, Valve brought a lot of attention to themselves when they revealed, the much rumoured, Steam Box and, at the same event, NVidia caught audiences off guard with their portable console, Project Shield. Valve and NVidia are jumping directly into the mix and taking on the major consoles. Thus, are four consoles and three portable devices too much for the market, especially with Next-Gen consoles on the way?

The Steam Box - a PC that connects to the TV that supports Steam…Valve, along with several third-party companies, will develop their own style of Steam Box’s ranging from “Good”, “Better” and “Best” with a difference in performance quality. The interface, unsurprisingly, will be Steam’s Big Picture mode that Valve released earlier this year before CES. It can’t help being compared to the Big Three since it will be a home console for the living room and keep in mind Microsoft and PlayStation are gearing up for their next-gen consoles. Yep, gamers will contemplate buying the Steam Box over a next-gen console.

NVidia’s Project Shield - an android gaming device - was more of a surprise at CES and it received a lot of positivity after hands-on previews. Project Shield can play any android game or app but it stands out from the rest because it has an HDMI port so you can play it on HDTVs and it can stream PC games, as long as the PC has the latest NVidia graphics card. The controller resembles the Xbox style, with a screen attached to the top and is lighter than expected. Also, NVidia is stating that the Tegra 4 chip is the “world’s fastest processor” and thus will be able to play today’s high-end PC games smoothly (we’ll see how Battlefield 4 turns out).

So we have a new home console and a portable console hitting the scene. Most likely Valve will turn to their PC audience for the Steam Box. However, if their fans already have a heavily modified PC, will they shell out the same or more amounts of cash just to play their games on a TV? Project Shield will look towards android gamers - a different audience than Sony’s and Nintendo’s - but its ability to stream PC games might make it more prominent than the usual Android. Instead of playing portable spin-offs, such as Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, gamers will be able to choose to play the real deal themselves.

Everyone was already questioning the next-gen consoles. Now with Valve and NVidia coming along, this may shake things up. Even though PC streaming isn’t Project Shield's main feature, it is putting PC gaming into a more prominent role in the industry. Or then again, they might not make a dent and things will remain the same with Microsoft, Nintendo, and PlayStation!