After teasing us by sending a Half-Life crowbar late last week, NVIDIA and Valve have made it official: Half-Life 2 and Portal are coming to Android, but only on the NVIDIA Shield Android Portable Console for the time being. Portal was rumored since March, but NVIDIA “confirmed” Half-Life 2 somewhat last week by sending those green crowbars.
This is a great exclusive that NVIDIA has struck here, given that both games are classic in the video games hall of fame, and Half-Life 2 alone has received dozens of Game of the Year Awards when it launched.Back in 2009 when the iPhone 3GS came out, I knew right away that this day would come, and I had pointed out that horse-power aside, everything was lining up to have such great games on mobiles. It took 5 years of compound performance improvements on mobile processors, but the time has come, and mobiles can genuinely run in a 1-3 Watts power envelope what use to run on a 250-400W PC.
Those of you who follow our site are no stranger to the NVIDIA Shield, which we initially looked at during CES 2013. To this date, it remains the best Android portable console on the market, and it looks like NVIDIA wants to make it more interesting by lowering the price to $199 for “a limited time”.
If you are not familiar with it, check our full review of the SHIELD but in one sentence: it plays Android games, and PC games over streaming – and THAT makes it unique. It can also display games on the television, which can save you from having a dedicated PC in the living room, thus freeing some budget for a single, hyper-fast PC in the house.
The exclusive deal is a good example of the kind of relationship that NVIDIA has with developers such as Valve. They have worked together from the beginning, and some Valve employees have worked at 3DFX, NVIDIA or ATI before – yes, this is a small world.
But beyond the immediate desire to sell consoles and games, the NVIDIA SHIELD is a platform for NVIDIA to promote Android gaming. The endgame is not really to make money, but to make Android a first-class gaming platform. Why would you say? Simply alter the balance of power which currently favors vendors like Qualcomm, which has great graphics, but also a great modems – which is NVIDIA’s next hot topic.
Exclusive games guarantee that you are the best because you’re the only one – it’s that simple. By doing so, NVIDIA raises the value of its platform and provides an awesome awareness to its gaming partners. And since “discoverability” is the number one problem for all mobile developers, such a deal will bring much needed advertising. Finally, and it’s not negligible, it allows the development team to focus on a single platform at release time, then solve compatibility problems a bit later.
Half-Life 2 is only the beginning: it was one of the best DX9 games, but with chips like the upcoming NVIDIA Tegra K1 chip, it is possible to match the DX11 feature set of any modern PC or game console. From there, the compound progress in raw performance will do the rest.