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) 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. If Microsoft has its way, you can count on it. Its Xbox Smartglass app already allows users to navigate through the Xbox's dashboard without a game controller, access information about shows streaming through its entertainment service or check out maps and stats on games such as Forza Horizon or Halo 4 from their tablets and smartphones. Users can turn their smartphone into a controller for Home Run Stars or a playlist manager for Dance Central 3. It's not a fully portable controller yet, but it gives smart devices far more functions than up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. 3. Physical games
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.