GRID Game Streaming Service Is A Golden Opportunity For NVIDIA
NVIDIA made a series of announcements today regarding its excellent SHIELD Tablet. The company released a few more details about the impending Android Lollipop update (with redesigned apps) coming to the SHIELD Tablet, it announced a new 'Green Box' game bundle which includes a Tegra K1-optimized copy of Half Life 2: Episode One, and a trio of additional new games as well-OddWorld: Stranger's Wrath, Pure Pool, and Strike Suit Zero. But as nice as it will be to have the latest version of Android on the SHIELD Tablet, and as good as HL2:EP1 and some of the other new Tegra K1-optimized titles look, it was NVIDIA's announcement that its GRID Game Streaming service was coming to the SHIELD Tablet that could really shake things up. And I think NVIDIA's got a golden marketing opportunity on its hands.
The initial NVIDIA GRID beta was first made available on the company's SHIELD Portable handheld gaming device. The foundation of the GRID service is essentially some number of GeForce-powered servers that are able to run full-fledged PC games-in all their glory-and stream them out to NVIDIA's mobile devices. SHIELD Portable owners connected to the service by simply running an app; they selected a game, and the game was rendered on the server, but streamed out to the portable device as a 720P video feed. Controls and audio for the game were mapped to the portable device too. In testing of the initial GRID beta, I found the service to work extremely well. Although I was on the east coast and NVIDIA's servers were on the west coast, latency was generally good during off-hours and image quality was great. The experience wasn't quite as good as gaming locally, but it was still excellent and didn't detract from the enjoyment of the game.
With today's announcement, however, NVIDIA has kicked things up a few notches. Not only is it bringing the GRID Game Streaming service to the SHIELD Tablet, but the company is also expanding its reach into new markets, with additional servers and better integration, a number of new games, and a commitment to introduce new games weekly. Reps from NVIDIA also told me that the underlying architecture of GRID has been significantly revamped to make it easier to manage and deploy, which should help the company build out GRID should the need arise. The GRID Gaming Service is being launched in North America first, with servers located in Oregon and Virginia. But the service will be expanded to include Western Europe in December of this year and Asia Pacific will follow later next year. For SHIELD customers, the GRID service will be free through June 30, 2015. What it will cost after June 2015 is still up in the air.
In describing its newly-upgraded GRID Game Streaming service, NVIDIA says, 'Netflix and Spotify have revolutionized how we enjoy movies and music. GRID promises to bring the same convenience and variety that only a cloud service can offer. Powered by state-of-the-art NVIDA GeForce GPU servers, the GRID service will be available globally.' It's smart to conjure images of Netflix and Spotify to talk up GRID, to help less tech-savvy consumers somewhat understand how the service works and how easy it is to access. But I think NVIDIA has to go all out on its marketing efforts to drive home a couple of points that could really help the company immensely in the long term.
First, NVIDIA needs to educate general consumers and casual gamers about its products. Readers of sites like mine know what NVIDIA's SHIELD Portable and Tablet are, but Joe Gamer walking into Best Buy probably doesn't. NVIDIA needs to work up some creative advertising and marketing tools to reach these people. Anyone considering a tablet, that also plans to game, should absolutely consider the SHIELD Tablet-not only is it relatively powerful and a good gaming device, but it's also a very good general-use tablet as well. And the SHIELD Portable is an excellent alternative to the other portable gaming devices on the market. If you're savvy enough to know how to install and run emulators, the SHIELD Portable has access to an absolutely immense library of games. Both the SHIELD Tablet and SHIELD Portable also give users the ability to operate the devices in 'console mode' when connected to an HDTV. And both can stream games over a local network from a GeForce GTX-powered PC. Those two capabilities should be stressed to win over potential console buyers as well. Which brings me to my next point...
NVIDIA can use the GRID gaming service to ride the whole 'PC Master Race' wave that's currently permeated the hardcore gaming community. How does NVIDIA do that with a couple of Android devices? By promoting the fact that GRID runs PC games, with exactly the same graphical features of a GeForce powered PC. And they look better than anything on the current-gen consoles. Gamers know that the PC is currently the premiere gaming platform. PCs can run games with better graphics fidelity, more realism, and higher resolutions that any other platform. And a SHIELD Tablet running GRID lets gamers play those PC games anywhere they've got a reliable internet connection. That's pretty compelling if you ask me. If NVIDIA gets the messaging right there is some real opportunity here. Potential consumers can score a quality tablet or portable gaming device, with access to a myriad of Android games, and PC games that can double as a game console. Gamers can get in on PC gaming, without actually owning a gaming PC.