2Dealing With Console Overload
If the Nvidia dream becomes reality, there should be several more consoles on store shelves in the coming years. As the Tegra K1 gets bundled into set-top boxes, more device makers and developers will partner to offer games. This raises the question of whether there will soon to be too many devices for consumers to support. Already there are three major next-generation consoles, along with earlier-generation models, and Ouya, a relatively new Android-based game “microconsole” that was introduced in 2013. To add many more to the console mix might hurt the industry.
3The Blurred ‘Console’ Line
Before Nvidia can say for certain that it’s looking to get into the console market with its processor, we need to define exactly what a console is. At one time, it was simple: a device that connected to a television and played games. Today, products like the Xbox One bridge the gap between gaming, entertainment and tablets with the same graphical prowess as earlier-generation consoles, using features, like AirPlay, that beam content to big TV screen screens. So that means it might be far more difficult to define a console in this environment because of the Tegra K1.
4Is this the Opportunity Google Is Looking For?
Reports have swirled for months that Google was planning to get into the console market in one way or another. With the Tegra K1 on the way, it’s possible that the search engine might use the chip to attract device makers to bundle Android with any hardware they intend to bring to the living room. The Tegra K1, in other words, might be a new point of entry into the living room for Google.
5Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung Will Respond
Nvidia might be the first out of the gate with an advanced chip, but it won’t be the last. Qualcomm will almost certainly respond with something similar, as will Apple and Samsung. The stakes are too high in the mobile chip market for any company to simply ignore what Nvidia is doing with the Tegra K1.
6Microsoft Needs to Respond
Microsoft looks to be in the most difficult spot when evaluating the Tegra K1. Microsoft’s Xbox One tries to be the console for gamers and the home-entertainment box for others. But it’s clear that the Tegra K1 is attempting to do the same. What’s worse for Microsoft, the company relies heavily upon third-party publishers. If it’s as simple as Nvidia says to port titles from a console or PC to its new chip, the Tegra K1 boxes might quickly gain expansive game libraries, coupled with any number of Android apps that could soon make the Xbox One look second rate in comparison.
7Might Nintendo Benefit?
What if Nintendo actually benefits from the Tegra K1? Nintendo is arguably the most “pure” gaming company out there. The company is not interested in all the high-end living room integration offered by the Xbox One and doesn’t try to deliver the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 4. Nintendo’s consoles are designed for casual gamers who want a fun experience, nothing more, nothing less. It appears that Nvidia has its sights set on Sony and Microsoft with the Tegra K1, putting Nintendo in a potentially beneficial spot at the other end of the spectrum.
8Is Tegra K1 Good or Bad News for Sony?
Does the Tegra K1 put Sony in good or bad position? For now, it’s tough to say. On one hand, the company is dealing with the same issues as Microsoft, but its focus on entertainment is not nearly as deep. On the other hand, Sony has interests in the chip business that could help it respond quickly to the Tegra K1. It also has extremely loyal fans in key Asian markets. It’s tough to say how Sony would fare in the face of a Tegra K1 onslaught.
9Game Controller Issues Abound
The mobile gaming space is only starting to deal with some of the issues consumers are facing with game controllers. Some companies are showcasing traditional game controllers that work with smartphones and tablets. But it’s possible those troubles could only worsen if the Tegra K1 finds its way into so many different devices. Will some products require a touch-screen? Will others rely on traditional controllers? For developers, mapping controls to different devices could be a nightmare. It’s a problem that will need a solution if Nvidia’s grand design on getting its chips into different form factors becomes a reality.
10Is It Time for an Industry Standard?
In order for the Tegra K1 to gain full acceptance in the developer community, device makers might need to come together and see if they can come up with some sort of controller standard that will make it easier on developers to produce games that run seamlessly on multiple controllers. Touch-screen interfaces are one thing. But if companies want to build hardware controllers that control titles on-screen, and Nvidia gets its way with dozens of companies building set-top boxes, an industry standard would be necessary.
11But Nothing Is Going to Change Soon
As great as the Tegra K1 sounds, it won’t be an immediate game-changer. Nvidia will deliver a 32-bit version of the K1 in the first half of 2014. The 64-bit option will be available by year’s end, assuming all goes well with chip yields. From there, device makers need to integrate the chip into their products, bundle their software and start the marketing process. The new-generation console competitors might not hit the market for a year or more. Some industry veterans suspect that it will be at least three to five years before mobile devices could ever take on the dedicated consoles—partly because of power-consumption problems with these new high-end chips. For now, not much will change. But at some point, everything could change.