On a Wednesday afternoon in downtown San Francisco, the co-founder of GAEMS, John Smith, and his team host a steady stream of press in their hotel room to show off their latest creation. John looks to be in his fifties, and is the type of guy who can talk passionately about nearly anything, whether it’s his love of spicy food, his favorite sports teams, and of course, video games. And these days, John likes to talk a lot about his company’s latest mad scientist creation, the GAEMS Guardian, a massive portable gaming environment designed for content creators.
In 2011, GAEMS changed the game for gamers on the go with the first portable gaming environment, a briefcase with a monitor built into it for playing console games on the go. It was called the G-155, and was little more than a plastic box, but at the time it was the only solution available for those who wanted to play their gaming consoles inside a hotel room, or at a military camp. Since then, GAEMS has released a whole slew of portable gaming environments and accessories aimed at mobile gamers.
But as John Smith will be the first to tell you, times have changed, and now it’s not enough to give players a plastic box to play out of. In the age of the content creator, where streamers are expected to pump out new content each and every day for their followers, content creators stand to lose thousands of followers just by missing a single day. So it’s odd that there’s currently no solution for those looking to create content on the go, aside from packing a truckload of lighting and video equipment, monitors, and accessories and spending a couple hours setting up a remote studio.
John and his team hope to change that with the GAEMS Guardian, an ambitious evolution of the portable gaming environment from a simple plastic carrying case into a high-end, premium portable studio that caters to content creators. The most noticeable improvement of which is the sheer scale of the beast. The GAEMS Guardian is a massive metal briefcase weighing in at more than twenty pounds before adding in a console, and sized at 29 x 18 inches. The chassis has a removable panel on the outside that is sure to appeal to streaming celebrities who might their Guardian to double as an marketing tool, and the handle has rubber lining to make carrying this beast feasible after more than a few minutes.
Popping the case open reveals a 24” 1440p display that falls short of 4K capabilities, but gets close enough to make full use of the PS4 Pro’s capabilities and get most of the way to maxing out what the Xbox One X can do. On such a small display built into the top of a suitcase, the visual presentation is absolutely stunning. As an owner of the GAEMS Vanguard, my expectation with portable gaming environments is that you sacrifice a lot of fidelity when using a mobile solution (the Vanguard touts a 720p screen), but the GAEMS Guardian feels like the home theater experience on a smaller scale. You won’t get full 4K fidelity or HDR, but you also probably don’t want the case to cost thousands of dollars, and the Guardian succeeds in offering a premium experience without being needlessly opulent.
Probably the most surprising thing about the GAEMS Guardian is its colossal sound system, which is probably why it was the first thing the GAEMS team made a point of showing off. After booting up Forza Horizon 4, they pushed the speakers to their limit and smiled as the engine revving made the nearby hotel windows rattle. The sound system has dual speakers built into the sides of the case pointing directly at the player with subwoofers that would put some home theaters to shame. Alternatively, if you’d rather not wake the neighbors, you can make use of the audiojacks built into the case for any wired headset, or just plug in or sync any gaming headset directly with your controller or console.
One of the biggest improvements over the Vanguard is the media center, which now sits near the front of the case and offers a host of USB slots, headphone jacks, and buttons to control speaker volume, display settings on the monitor. What’s more is the USB slots passthrough to whichever console is plugged in, allowing users to plug in any external device to make use of whatever you have stored there (meaning it just became a whole lot easier to transport your digital library without having to redownload everything). With the Vanguard, the media center was located directly below the monitor, requiring you to reach over your console to the far end of the box to alter the settings, or else make use of a remote control that never seems to be nearby when you need it. Furthermore, any accessories you wanted to plug in needed to be plugged directly into your console, which is a lot easier said than done when the thing is strapped into a box. Now, everything is a few inches away, allowing you to charge your phone, plug in a controller when the batteries die, and turn up the volume when you want to show off to your friends.
But the main draw for this device is the value it brings to content creators, and that lies in the top of the suitcase, where you’ll find mountable racks for installing lighting, cameras, secondary screens, and more. In just a few minutes, you can install all that you need to stream your gaming session with high value production quality, all using a suitcase that’s packed with whatever you need. Or if you’d rather display your gameplay on a different screen, there’s also an HDMI-out port on the back of the case that allows you to toss your gameplay onto whichever screen you have available.These features will no doubt prove to be a game changer for content creators who would otherwise lose out on contributions and bleed subscribers every time they step out of the comfort of their home.
Another huge leap offered by the GAEMS Guardian is the fact that it is the first portable gaming environment to support PCs in an official capacity. Instead of some cloth straps to hold your console in place, the Guardian has a plastic plate that looks like the side panel of a gaming PC’s chassis, which is screwed into the case over whatever device you’ve got inside. Alternatively, this panel can be used as a side panel for a PC, meaning you can build a high end PC to fit perfectly inside the case, and then use this existing panel as the fourth wall. This is a literal game-changer for content creators, who mostly favor PC setups for competitive and high quality captures.
All-in-all, the GAEMS Guardian is an ambitious project, and certainly one with many challenges — not the least of which is actually getting the thing into the hands of influencers. But it’s one that the GAEMS team seems poised to tackle, and with their Indiegogo campaign having raised more than $10,000 in the first couple of days, it’s clear that their fans have been looking for a solution like this for a long time. I’m not a content creator, but after having a hands-on experience with the Guardian, it’s going to be tough going back to my lowly Vanguard, and any influencers looking for a mobile solution would be wise to keep an eye on this beast ahead of its release later this year.
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