Wahlman: How Nvidia Is About to Change the Entire Gaming Industry

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Twenty to 25 years ago, did people regularly bring laptops to cafes in order to work? Did you see other people doing this?

I didn't, back then. The concept of sitting with your laptop at a cafe to squeeze in an hour of work was essentially an unheard-of concept at until at least the early 1990s, more likely around year 2001.

There was primarily one reason for this: No laptops! Most people just didn't start getting laptops until the last 20 years.

Until that time, people were holed up with PC desktops in their basements and in their offices, doing their deeds isolated from the broader population. With the advent of the laptop, however, agigantic industry was born: The modern coffee shop. Starbucks ( SBUX)grew into one of the world's largest restaurant chains, and Peet's was sold for a huge premium a year or so ago.

I think it is fair to say that in the absence of laptops, there would have been no Starbucks, Peet's or equivalent of nearly the size they have become. It's a fundamental change in the entire culture andsociety. America before the laptop, Starbucks and Peet's was a country that functioned very differently than it does now.

We are now only a few days away from the beginnings of a similar revolution in computer gaming, and it's led almost exclusively by NVIDIA ( NVDA) . Let me tell you about this most significant development.

Until now, most serious gamers have been holed up in their parents' basements, playing games on their PCs and consoles. These mostly young individuals have regressed into becoming fairly anti-socialcreatures, because they don't see the light of day, or interact with other people in person.

The negative effects of these gaming addictions manifest themselves in a variety of symptoms: growing long hair, inability to verbally express themselves beyond using consonants, generally rude behaviors, and in extreme cases school shootings when these troubled souls finally lash out. It's no wonder the most popular computer games on the market today are referred to as "first-person shooter" games.

And you wonder why America is becoming atomized as a society, with teenagers locked into their basements playing "first person shooter" games on their PCs and consoles! This is what happens when youngsters become addicted lab rats in their own basements.

These PC desktop games and consoles function as de-facto "virtual electronic fences" for these addicted teenage-types (real teenagers, or adults who have regressed). Why is this so?

It isn't practical for a teenager to drag a PC or TV gaming console to a Starbucks, night club or park bench. Or at least a mall bench. Portability is key. A portable gaming device like this can't be aslarge or heavy as a laptop.

What about a tablet, you say, such as the iPad? Surely it has been successful? Absolutely, supremely so -- for certain kinds of gaming. However, the hard-core gamers need that Xbox 360-style gaming controller with all those analog buttons and controls.

Enter the Nvidia Shield.

With a targeted launch date of June 30, the Nvidia stands to change the entire gaming culture to the same degree that a laptop and Starbucks changed the rest of U.S. society over the last decade or two. So what is this device?

Nvidia has engineered the single most obvious gaming device that nobody had yet built: An Xbox 360-style gaming controller mated with an Android version of the Apple ( AAPL) iPod Touch. The screen simply folds down to form a cover over the controls. Does it get any more obvious and brilliant at the same time, than this?

With the Nvidia Shield, you can talk to other gamers either Bluetooth peer-to-peer, or via WiFi to other gamers on the LAN or over the cloud. A future version would also include LTE and be sold atVerizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint for $50 more, in my estimation.

The price of the initial WiFi-only version of the Nvidia Shield is $349 and it will be sold everywhere except for the most obvious place: The Google Google ( GOOG) Play store. Why obvious? The Nvidia Shield is basically a Google Nexus Android device, that just happens to be optimized for gaming.

In other words, whereas devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One will both be offered by Google starting June 26 in the so-called "Nexus experience" versions, the Nvidia Shield is really nothing but the one and only "Nexus GAMING Experience" device. Surely it is in Google's best interest to feature the Nvidia Shield prominently in the Google Play store and at Google.com/Nexus. It would be a blow to the gaming ambitions of competitors such as Microsoft and Apple.

Hugo Barra and Sundar Pichai, can you please pick up the phone and call Jen-Hsun Huang right away, please? You can make this happen quickly.

However, even without the most obvious distribution channel in place on Day One (June 30), the Nvidia Shield is poised to become the raging gaming device success of all time. Expect lines at places such as GameStop ( GME) to go around the block on launch day.

The overall societal impact of the Nvidia Shield will be a lot more dramatic than just in terms of Nvidia's sales numbers, though. It will change gaming culture as we know it. All of these teenagers cannow safely emerge from their infested basements, cut their hair, infuse some vowels into their vocabulary, learn common decency, and trek over to Starbucks or a park bench. It's safe now. Your games will be with you, in your hand, with that indispensable analog controller.

Once these gaming addicts have been liberated from their basements, and have detected the presence of other, real living human beings, they will start to appreciate a more diverse society than the dark dungeons in which they were mentally residing until now. This will be great not only for Starbucks and Peet's but also for reducing mental illness and school shootings, among other calamities.

In reforming the gaming culture, the Nvidia Shield is poised to become the watershed product of our generation, just like the laptop emerged in the 1990s as the watershed product of its time. I envision these three steps to take place over the coming weeks and months as the Nvidia Shield is launched and comes to dominate the revolution in the gaming market:

  1. Distribution will spread from places such as GameStop, to the most obvious place to sell the "Nexus Gaming Experience" -- the Google Play store, and Google.com/Nexus.
  2. Distribution will widen further some time by 2014 when an LTE version will presumably be launched, reaching AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and all international wireless operators.
  3. A whole generation of gaming-addicted youngsters will grow up, and become healthier and more social individuals, now that they are no longer chained to their basements.

Wall Street has not yet understood the importance of the Nvidia Shield, and its ability to change U.S. society. Soon it will.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOG, NVDA, AAPL and MSFT.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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