The Wiimote still had one attached to it, but signaled its impending doom. The PlayStation Move motion controller did away with it all together, while the Xbox Kinect saw no reason to make a player hold something at all. The Wii U's GamePad put more emphasis on its touchscreen, motion control and analog sticks than the pad. With technology such as Intel's (INTC - Get Report) Wireless Display making it theoretically possible to turn your smartphone into a console controller, the beloved D-pad could become as much of a retro gaming fossil as Atari and arcade joysticks.
As we mentioned earlier, downloaded game sales are soaring while physical game sales are way off. That means discs and game cards are dying, but it doesn't mean that every digital game sold is some app that costs less than $5. While Project Shield may have a tough road ahead as a handheld, its basic function of giving users a way to play full, engrossing games from cloud-based services such as Valve's Steam without using a full-fledged PC or a clunky console stuffed with an unnecessary optic drive. The folks at Engadget were on the lookout for "Steam Box" systems (once rumored to be in the works from Valve itself) that would capitalize on Steam's Linux version to bring great downloaded games into living rooms at low cost. Nvidia didn't provide a price for Project Shield, but it's likely the first in a line of devices with similar function. Keeping the hardware to a minimum will cut costs in a way the big console makers can't, while processors such as the Tegra 4 provide much-needed gamer brawn without a whole lot of bulk. Nvidia just gave console makers a road map for ditching discs altogether. If Sony's purchase of game streaming service Gaikai last summer was any indication, the big boys just might follow it. -- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.