Nvidia Shield embraces Android games by the thousands

Monday's update brings Android 4.3 Jelly Bean to the game device, and a new "console mode" turns Shield into a portable living-room game console.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Nvidia's Shield allows portable gaming. Josh Miller/CNET
Nvidia has opened its Shield gaming device up to the universe of Android games, adding console support to thousands of games originally designed for touch screens.

The Santa Clara, Calif., graphics chipmaker said the Shield "Gamepad Mapper" allows users to create their own custom controls for thousands of games in the Google Play store, or users can use Nvidia's default profiles -- automatically downloaded from the cloud -- that are available for hundreds of top touch-based Android games. The new titles with Shield controller compatibility include NBA Jam and Angry Birds.

The changes are available immediately through an over-the-air software update.

The Nvidia Shield shows off its high-end components (pictures)

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Nvidia unveiled Shield during the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device runs Android, but it also includes gaming-specific features, most notably its design. The system looks more like a game controller than a tablet, and Nvidia recently said that Shield was selling out in stores. Early on, however, Shield faced limitations with the number of games that it supported through its game console-like controller. The expansion released Monday should help boost the device's reach.

Along with Gamepad Mapper, Nvidia's update brings support for PC game streaming through Nvidia GameStream. The company talked up the feature when it launched Shield, but the capability wasn't immediately available. It noted Monday that PC streaming supports more than 50 games, including Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

Another update is "console mode" that turns Shield into a portable living room game console. Users pair their gaming device to a TV via Bluetooth controller and then can play Android games, browse the Internet, and which high definition movies. Users also can use Nvidia GameStream to play PC games on their TVs. Console mode has been optimized to work and play with Nyko's PlayPad Pro wireless Bluetooth controller.

The update also brings Android 4.3 Jelly Bean to Shield, giving users features such as restricted profiles, expandable notifications, and other improvements that make the system feel faster and smoother. In addition, Nvidia expanded Shield's support for SD cards, allowing gamers to move .OBB and .APK files to external flash cards to free up the device's internal storage.

For a limited time, Nvidia will offer up to $100 off Shield with the purchase of certain Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics cards. The deal also includes free copies of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and Batman: Arkham Origins.