On a recent Saturday afternoon Charlie, 13 ' wiry and energetic ' plays with his Nintendo DS as Dad ferries him home from soccer practice in his Toyota Prius. Meanwhile his sister Katie, 10, prefers to tap away at casual games served up on her iPod touch.
At home Charlie drops the DS for some time on the XBox. After the family meal Dad ' a middle-aged IT professional ' blasts away at his guests in an impromptu LAN party in the basement on his NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660-powered PC. After calling for much-needed reinforcements, Dad is joined by Charlie. 'Murderbot? More like murdered
bot,' Charlie says, mocking a guest's in-game handle (such are the risks of spending an evening with a real family).
So much for the days when video games could only be played on a console stashed underneath the family television set. Today's gamers move between experiences served up on consoles, smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The only catch: the content on those devices doesn't move with them. This will be the year that starts to change.
A big reason: services targeting gamers such as Valve's Steam have connected tens of millions of GeForce gamers with each other and with top-tier content. Microsoft and Sony have created sophisticated online services for their consoles, too. Of the 190 million U.S. households that own a gaming console, more than 80% have hooked their console to the Internet.
The servers that tie today's games together will only get more sophisticated. NVIDIA's GRID cloud gaming platform ' introduced in January at CES ' promises to make it economical to stream AAA games such as 'Assassin's Creed,' and 'Street Fighter,' to laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
And while games are connected to a rich array of services hosted in far-off data centers, smartphones and tablets running Google's Android software have become powerful gaming platforms thanks to mobile processors such as NVIDIA Tegra.
Beyond the Box
The result is a new generation of hyper-connected devices that will weave the worlds of console, mobile, and PC gaming together. A quick look at three examples:
- The Razer Edge Pro ' slated to go on sale later this year: Inside the slim, 10.1-inch laptop is a powerful PC processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE GPU, giving the device the power to play games normally consumed on desktop PCs and bulky gaming notebooks.
- Ouya: the startup, which began its live as a crowd-funded project on Kickstarter, puts the games built for Android smartphones and tablets into a slick $99 Yves Behar-designed console powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor.
- Project SHIELD portable: our portable device ' which will go on sale in the second quarter of this year ' sits at the intersection of PC and mobile gaming. The Tegra 4 powered device will pair a retina-quality 5-inch screen and console-quality controls with the ability to dip into the thriving Android mobile gaming ecosystem. It will also be able to stream games from a PC powered by an NVIDIA GTX 650 or better GPU.
To be sure, none of these NVIDIA-powered devices are going to appeal to everyone. Take Charlie and Katie's Mom. She doesn't play video games, preferring old-fashioned games such as Hearts and Liar's Dice with friends at the dining room table. Her idea of portable gaming is deck of cards because she says it lets her play wherever she goes.
Why should a great videogame be any different?
Note: an earlier version of this article got the name of the game Charlie played on his Nintendo DS wrong.