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"GameStick" and NVIDIA "Project SHIELD" Consoles-in-a-Controller on Their Way

Yahoo Contributor Network

Both GameStick and NVIDIA's Project Shield are upcoming game consoles the size of a game controller, which can hook up to a larger display. Both are powered by Android, Google's open-source operating system that's normally used on smartphones and tablets. And both have working hardware prototypes already. But one is a $99 Kickstarter project by an indie group, while the other has the backing of two major companies in the PC gaming world -- and will probably be a lot more expensive when it comes out.

Here's a look at two upcoming TV game consoles that you'll be able to fit in your pocket or handbag.

GameStick: Exactly what it sounds like

Imagine a tiny, rectangular game controller, sort of like a Wii Remote with more buttons and twin analog sticks. On one side is a plastic bump, that when you pull it off it becomes this gadget the size of a USB memory stick that plugs into a TV's HDMI port. That's GameStick, and with 19 days left to go in its Kickstarter fund-raiser it's managed to raise more than three times the $100,000 its creators asked for.

GameStick will have 8 GB of flash memory, and a processor capable of handling modern AAA Android games like Shadowgun, plus 1080p video. If you don't like the controller it comes with, you'll be able to connect up to four of your own via Bluetooth, or even use your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet as a controller.

Project SHIELD: A controller that can stop bullets

Maybe it can't literally serve as a shield. But at about the size of the original Xbox's controller, the "portable" console NVIDIA showed off at this year's CES sure looks like it can. It's powered by a next-generation Tegra 4 processor, and features its own built-in 5-inch multitouch screen for gaming on the go. But it can also connect to a TV, and can even stream PC games via Steam's Big Picture mode, which was designed for controller games.

A not-so-silver lining?

GameStick's biggest weakness may be its developer support. Its Kickstarter page mentions the hundreds of thousands of Android games out there, but most of those are only on Google Play, which (unlike most of the rest of Android) is proprietary to Google. Time will tell whether its creators can get enough developers to write games for the platform by the time of its planned April launch, or enough gamers to buy games they might already have on their tablets.

In contrast, between full support for the Google Play store and PC game streaming from Steam, Project SHIELD will have thousands and thousands of games, and there will be no need to repurchase titles you've already bought from either store. There's no word from NVIDIA yet, though, on how much its game console will cost or even when it will launch.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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