Earlier this year, chip-maker NVIDIA shocked the world by announcing it was getting into the handheld gaming industry with its own console: the NVIDIA Shield. Not only does that seem like a strange market for the brand (current console-makers Sony and Nintendo have had diminishing success over the years in the handheld area), but NVIDIA’s console itself was a bit of an odd bird.

Instead of going the small and portable route, NVIDIA took what looked like an Xbox 360 controller (there are some small tweaks, sure, but by and large it looks and feels the same), slapped a 5-inch flip-top screen on it, gave it an Android-based operating system, and called it an NVIDIA Shield.

Aside from its non-traditional form-factor, the NVIDIA Shield separates itself from traditional handheld consoles by featuring a streaming-based game delivery system, similar to what OnLive tried to do several years ago. Confirmed games for the system include Dead Trigger and Grand Theft Auto III.

Though the system seemed a little straightforward, NVIDIA didn’t announce the release date when the product was unveiled, prompting some to wonder exactly how far away a product like this could be. However, there is good news: the company announced that the first NVIDIA Shield units will be shipping at the end of June 2013. And in even better news, they have dropped the launch price from $350 to $300, according to Engadget.

This is definitely a better price point for the new handheld, and puts it more or less on par with the price points of the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita when they were launched (though they have subsequently gone through several price drops).

In addition to playing games that are currently available on the Google Play market, the NVIDIA Shield can also stream selected titles from a compatible PC. Games that are confirmed to be able to stream to the Shield include The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal 2, and Batman: Arkham City.

The NVIDIA Shield is certainly an ambitious project, but it’s really a wild card in a field that seems to be getting crushed under the weight of smartphone games and games tied to social networks. NVIDIA’s handheld also doesn’t have any exclusive games, so consumers might have a hard time justifying even the reduced $300 price point. Still, if Android gaming was going to get its own console, this handheld looks like its best shot. In addition to ordering online, consumers who are interested can also pick up a Shield at video game retailer GameStop.




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