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A Comprehensive Look At NVidia Shield TV 2017

“Streamer for Gamers” is how NVidia wants us to look at its Shield TV’s 2017 avatar. Making a splash at CES 2017, Jen-Hsun Huang, NVidia’s CEO introduced the device as a compact TV hub/console, that’s powered by NVidia’s Tegra X1 chip and runs on the latest Android-based UI.

Theoretically speaking, you get the best of both worlds with this $200 streaming device in that you can choose from its vast library of games (requires monthly subscription) and stream HDR and 4K movies and shows on your TV via the multitude of Android apps.

After having played around (read research) with the 2017 Shield TV, here’s our comprehensive take on the nifty ‘stream-box’.

Hardware

NVidia this time around, went for a more compact footprint accentuated by a sleek, sharp and angular design. However, the full plastic build seems like a cost-saving measure especially when compared to hefty, metallic finishes that the previous version of the Shield box featured.

Under the hood exist NVidia’s Tegra X1 graphic chip with 3-GB of RAM and a 12-GB SSD storage; an aspect that’s remained unchanged from its 2015 model. However, there is the choice of larger storage with the Pro version that features a 500GB HDD. There’s a stand on offer that lets you orient the Android box vertically.  

Turn to the back of the box, and you got two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI out and an Ethernet jack. They have dropped the SD card and micro-USB slot. Instead, there is an option to utilize one of the USB ports as an input port to connect your PC if the need arises. Also worth mentioning is the non-inclusion of an HDMI cable in the package.

The included Shield controller has gone through some structural overhauls: its much smaller; sports a geodescent pattern and overall feels like a better version of the Xbox One S controller. The controller still charges via micro-USB and NVidia claims that it can withstand 60-hours of game-time.

One thing we did notice is that the navigation buttons aren’t capacitive but proper physical buttons. This is a welcome change given the finicky aspect of the last NVidia controller which would inadvertently pause in between games only to realise that you had accidently flicked on the pause button.

With the previous model, the remote controller was sold separately for $50. Thankfully, this time around, they have included the nifty controller with the package. Its got a simple design that lets you work with the non-gaming menu, thereby making the Shield TV a true hybrid between a console and set-top box.   

Software

The 2017 Shield runs on the new Android 7.0 “Nougat” thus giving us a look at how well Google has planned the UX for the big screen. One useful tip we learnt straight off the bat was the double-pressing of the home button to drop back into the home screen.

Also, the picture-in-picture support of Nougat means that developers can include this as a feature in their apps thus letting a user browse the Android TV interface while having the media content play on a mini-screen.

NVidia has announced an ambitious strategy for the Shield in terms of making it a true smart-home appliance by integrating it with Google Assistant. However, we couldn’t test that feature since the update for that isn’t going to be out until later in the year.

Theoretically though, it should make for an intriguing and perhaps inspiring partnership with NVidia’s in-house voice-command feature ‘Spot’ which lets you bark commands at Google Assistant from anywhere in the house.

Sadly, all that we could achieve at this point in time was ask simple questions by tapping the microphone button about sports update, which would show up on the TV screen in a very Google Now type card.

Streaming Capability

We noticed a pretty solid collection of media-centric apps on Shield’s Android TV and while some did display performance glitches from time to time, the overall experience wasn’t so bad. There’s also the Cast support from Google using which we could cast apps from our android phones.  

Media streaming performance is perhaps where the Shield makes a giant killing. Be it Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, we were able to stream 4K video content seamlessly. The fact that we could access 4K HDR from Amazon’s video platform was quite amazing since Amazon’s own Fire TV box struggles with it!

Gaming Capability

A big change from the previous model is the revamped game streaming service otherwise known as GeForce Now. With the new servers powered by GeForce 10-series GPUs, that opens up a whole new dimension for enjoying high-end, graphic intensive games, especially when they are being rendered remotely and then streamed to the Shield device over the internet.

For instance, our gaming rig featuring a twin GeForce GPU takes around 5-7 seconds to load The Witcher 3 and that’s about the same time it took for the streamed version to load on our TV screen. We could play the game at the highest available resolution (1080p @ 60 FPS) and ‘ultra’ graphic setting and were hard-pressed to find any noticeable lag or compression artefacts.

We feel its important to mention about the quality of GeForce Now experience which will vary depending on the speed and bandwidth of your internet setup. So, a flaky internet connection would naturally encourage more issues with the overall rendering, lag and compression artefacts in streamed games.      

Potential Competition

In terms of game streaming, the NVidia faces stiff competition from the likes of Steam who have released their own version of a remote game streamer. And when it comes to media streaming, there’s just too many players to name.

Where NVidia’s Shield TV takes the gallop is that it is a single-point device for both game and media streaming, and this it does quite admirably.

Our Verdict

If you already own a Shield TV box then the NVidia’s 2017 Shield TV will feel like the same offering with a few new tricks. However, for the many who don’t, it is the perfect media streamer/micro-console hybrid out there in the market right now.

 

Rovio, Makers Of Angry Birds Game Look Towards London For New Beginnings

Rovio Entertainment Limited, the makers of the Angry Bird franchise, is all set to open up its studio in London. Despite experts discouraging companies in Europe from shifting to the UK due to Brexit, Rovio however, seems pretty determined on going ahead, because they see this move as the next logical step in their road map to progress.

The Nordic studio already employs more than 10% of the elite gaming workforce in Finland and setting up the London studio is a great way of exploring and hiring new local talent who come with a fresh perspective into the company.

This was a much-needed revival given how the ‘Angry Birds’ firm almost hit rock-bottom in the past few years. But ask Rovio, and they seem to be singing from a different hymn-sheet. Their take – this is the right time to migrate.

The Rovio Report Card At A Glance

Angry Birds, the game, the company and the controversies – These have been the talk of the town for a while now. The Finnish studio, which shot to fame in 2009 with the unmatchable success of the Angry Birds game, had a dream run for a certain time period.

However, with the failure of games like Amazing Alex in 2012, Angry Birds Epic and Go! in 2013, combined with the dip in the growth of the Angry Bird licensed merchandise, Rovio had to lay off more than 300 employees between 2014 and 2015. It also saw the stepping down of two CEOs Mikael Hed and Pekka Rantala during this phase.

It suffered financially with net profits falling by 50% in 2013; a further decrease in profits by 73% and total revenue drop by 43% ensued in 2014. By 2015, estimated losses stood at more than 13 million Euros.

Yet, the Nordic studio did everything they could to dig their roots deeper and trudged on unfrazzled. Their recent success with games like Blast and Angry Birds 2, along with the massive success of the 3D animated comic adventure Angry Birds Movie by Sony Pictures, shows that they are here to stay.

According to Mark Sorrell, the head of Rovio studio, the company has to go beyond Angry Birds and create more new games that can become successful, if they wish to stay in the running for more than 100 years, which they intend to.

The Successes

Angry Birds, the 52nd game of Rovio was designed for the iPhone platform in which the gamer had to solve a puzzle, save eggs by throwing birds and defeat pigs using slingshots. The game took the mobile gaming industry by storm and reached the top-most spot of paid applications within six months of being on Apple’s App Store.

Rovio raised 42 million dollars in March of 2011 through Felicis Ventures, Atomico and Accel Partners, and Angry Birds reached its one-billionth download in 2012; its two-billionth download in January 2014. Its YouTube channel had amassed two billion views by June 2015.

The Financial Struggle

The strategy then was about churning out as many games as possible all the while juicing the popularity of the Angry Bird franchise. However, this was neither sustainable and nor could it fuel the growth of Rovio Entertainment. The result – the company had to endure a dark phase where revenue and profits took a nose-dive.

In response, Rovio went into major course-correction mode. It put an end to games that were not doing well, taking a step back to analyze what went wrong and how. The 400-member strong Finnish studio understands the value of keeping the gamers interested and accepts that they do not make products, rather provide services. Hence, a strategy to reflect those thought-processes had to be put in place.

The Revival

With the new thinking and giving importance to quality over quantity, Rovio has seen an encouraging operating profit in 2016, which means good things are in store for the studio. The box-office success of the Hollywood movie Angry Birds 3D has got them new licensing deals and added to the revenue bringing Rovio to a stable stage, where they can look at growing their numbers.

Thus, already having a premise for setting up an office at London because of their existent consumer products department, Rovio studio head Mark Sorrell, told that this was a natural step of succession during his announcement about the London office in the Pocket Gamer Connects London earlier in this week.

The London studio is open now and aims at recruiting high quality talent to stand up to the high level expectations that the industry has with their brand. Mark made a point by telling that they are not a startup and they are not pressurizing themselves to produce quick games at the moment.

Rovio is willing to take it slow and steady and hire not more than eight people in 2017. They are not looking for mavericks, rockstars or ninjas, rather mature minds and a diverse team that can settle and flourish in a Finnish work environment.

The Future Planning

The year 2019 is when Rovio London plans to launch its first title as they want to take these two years in developing, testing and ensuring that the new game is just the touch of perfect. Although, most new studios are under tremendous pressure to prove a point by rolling out their first game within six months of setting up shop, Rovio is not in that rat race.

This London studio is going to concentrate on developing multiplayer mobile games and they understand that this genre takes time to develop, irrespective of how amazing and experienced the team handling the project might be. Rovio also believes that the entire team has to put in their heart and soul into coming up with the new game, and they are willing to invest that much time into the mobile MMO.

The strategy Rovio London studio will follow is to ensure not to repeat old mistakes. They want to focus on making fantastic games, might be less in number, but great enough to match, if not surpass, the success of their all-time popular franchise of the Angry Birds.

GTA V Releases Its First Major Update For 2017

Grand Theft Auto is the real reason why people even know of Rockstar Games. These bad asses have given us titles that are gory, catchy and packed to the brim with hours of endless fun and mayhem. With GTA V, Rockstar managed to build on its reputation for endless gaming and RPG action when it announced that this would have an online multiplayer universe above and beyond its story mode. Nice move Rockstar, no wonder you guys currently top the charts worldwide for the most played RPG game at present.

In fact, if current reports are true then Rockstar Games has managed to sell over 70 million copies of GTA V. Instead of sitting on their laurels and working on future game title releases, the production house continues to toil away the hours building upgrades, new vehicles, expansion packs and what not. Latest in its series of rollouts is the new vehicles that just hit the GTA universe. This has already created a buzz around the GTA community with many even saving up virtual mullah just so they can get their shiny new dream machine.

The newest content available for download in the GTA 5 universe is the final piece of the 2016 packs and it is available on all platforms. The Dewbauchee Spectre sports car is now open for sale at Benny’s Original Motor Works shop with a price tag of $599,000. This is a two-door coupe that boasts of exclusivity and Benny will strip it down to the core and reassemble it into a super beast as per the player’s liking – as Rockstar describes the Dewbauchee Spectre on its official website.

Along with the release of this sports car, Rockstar has also added another game mode in the Adversary Mode, which they are calling Collection Time. The objective of this brand new mode is to pick through opponents in a defined sequence within a given time frame. This particular mode was long awaited but it was called “Pointless” at the time, or so the gossip columns suggest. Benny’s shop will now offer till 30th January a discount of 25 percent on any upgrade done to a new or old car. Finally, the Executive Upgrade will dole out more discounts on upgrades that players make in their personal garage.

Seems that the holiday spirit is lingering at the Rockstar studios. The developers aren’t happy with all the shiny new things they just gave us so they have decided to double the GTA$ and RP for Special Vehicle Works and Online Biker Clubhouse Contracts. This too will last till January 30th. A few other items too received a markdown such as Biker Business Properties, any import/export tattoo, Executive Garage renovations and also the Custom Auto Shop renovations.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Rockstar ended its tirade of upgrades and discounts by announcing yet another premium race that it dubbed, “Chiliad”. This being a stunt race, allows players to generate a whole lot of GTA$ by simply finishing in the top three. Outside the top spots though players don’t get any GTA$ but have to make do with RP.

Why Is Rockstar Actively Supporting GTA V

It truly is astonishing how hard the developers are working at keeping GTA V relevant. No wonder then that the fan base just keeps on growing. As per current estimates, the growth does not seem likely to stop for at least a couple more years even with the new titles, “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “GTA 6” scheduled for launch in the near future. If the folks at Rockstar had their way, they would continue keeping GTA 5 alive for another decade. All this is possible thanks to the online multiplayer mode. In fact, 95% of the updates rolled out periodically are aimed towards the multiplayer arena, some debugs while most giving level updates, add-ons, new vehicle packs and much more.

It makes a lot of sense too as to why Rockstar Games continues to invest in the upkeep of a released title. First, GTA V is still its major money spinner. Second, if it can keep the profits up from this title, the risks of its future title’s uncertain income are mitigated in the long run. In fact, current fan following for “Red Dead Redemption 2” isn’t all that great if you compare it to GTA V though there is a lot of hype surrounding this particular title. According to GTA 5 Cheats, the gaming community doesn’t seem that excited with the upcoming title and the chances of it ever overtaking GTA V in terms of popularity is slim.

Just recently GTA V Online was scheduled for a crucial update across all platforms. While this wasn’t particularly advertised, some players who witnessed a few glitches reported the servers showing them an “update is coming” screen. If it refers only to the vehicle pack that just came out, or if it is for a major overhaul/addition – only time will tell.

One thing is for certain though. Cross-platform popularity is priority for the developers as they have promised a final DLC content release this year. Take for instance the background scripts which are being tweaked by Rockstar Games. This has caused many players a lot of pain as they get booted out from the system and notified of a critical update which would be taking care of the issue.

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