Nvidia has just announced at its CES press conference that its new Shield handheld gaming device can connect to users' home PCs to stream and play games. To work, users need an Nvidia Kepler-based graphics card (GTX 650 or GTX 660M or higher), which utilizes a piece of software in GeForce Experience. Games streamed to the device must also support controller input, though Nvidia says some games without controller support can be played by mapping control buttons to the Shield's inputs. The move will allow PC gamers to extend their game sessions to the handheld or through Shield to their TVs without having to lug their computer towers or gaming laptops over to the living room.
In a demo on stage, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang played Assassin's Creed III through Steam on the Shield handheld. Nvidia also demonstrated Steam's Big Picture Mode, which passed through the Shield from the PC, ending up on a television. There's no word on a full list of compatible PC games yet, but Nvidia says it will provide one closer to release. And, of course, the Shield won't just play PC games; as a native Android device running the latest version of Jelly Bean, Shield also allows users to play Android games from the Play Store.
Other requirements for streaming PC gaming include a rig with an Intel Core i5 or better, 4GB of system memory, the latest GeForce drivers, Windows 7 or 8, and an 802.11/a/g/n router. The company says that the system uses an H.264 video encoder built into Kepler devices to stream games over home Wi-Fi networks with "ultra-low latency." Since Shield contains HDMI output, this will allow users to play PC games on virtually any display in their household.
We've seen plenty of streaming game demos in the past — there are even some third party apps that already allow users to connect to their home PCs to play games — but this is definitely one of the most impressive and integrated products around. Nvidia hasn't announced a price or release date for the Shield yet (only a Q2 2013 release window), but the device could be the first real option for PC gamers who would prefer to stream games from their home PC rather than cloud services like OnLive or Gaikai.