May 14, 2013 at 2:44 PM ET
The portable gaming console formerly known as "Project Shield" will arrive at select online and brick-and-mortar retailers next month, developer Nvidia announced Tuesday.
Nvidia first unveiled its mobile gaming device in a surprise move at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) under the comic book-like moniker "Project Shield." Now known simply as "Shield," the new Android-powered mobile gaming device and the first to be produced by a company best known for its line of graphics processing units (GPUs) and mobile processors will debut for $349 — a high price point for a fading part of the market for gaming hardware.
Units will begin shipping to select stores including GameStop, Newegg, Micro Center, and Canada Computers in June, Nvidia said in blog post Prospective fans can begin pre-ordering the device on May 20, though anyone who previously signed up for the device's newsletter through Nvidia's website can begin pre-ordering the device immediately.
A major challenge that any mobile console developer faces is in securing enough quality software to make the device worth it. Seeing as Shield will enter the market at more than twice the price of the current market leader, Nintendo's 3DS, and without the proprietary Mario and Donkey Kong games that make its competitor such a unique product, this is a particularly pressing dilemma for Nvidia to resolve.
Given the relative openness of Google's Play store, the company may have found its savior in the Android operating system — though, like PowerA's Moga controller or PlayJam's GameStick, the Shield console would still need to optimize Android games to the new hardware to make spending the extra cash actually worth it for customers.
Nvidia said that in addition to an unspecified number of Google Play store games and apps that will be compatible with the device, the Shield will come with two games, "Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2," an "Expendable: Rearmed." The company also said that it has entered into partnerships for five additional games — "Costume Quest" and "Broken Age" from Kickstarter wunderkind Double Fine, "Flyhunter: Origins" from Steel Wool Games, "Skiing Fred" from Dedalord Games and "Chuck's Challenge" from Niffler.
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.