Nvidia surprised a number of journalists and consumers alike by unveiling a portable gaming device at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. Codenamed Project Shield, the handheld is powered by the company’s latest Tegra 4 mobile chip that outputs content to a 5-inch, 720p display.

One might think that such a complex product was likely in development for years but according to a new post on Nvidia’s blog, that isn’t exactly the case. Less than a year ago, Project Shield and the idea behind it didn’t even exist. But as Nvidia tells it, they had inadvertently been working up to building the device for a number of years.

The project began with the idea of stripping down gaming to its most essential component: the controller. The company worked tirelessly to write software to connect controllers to Android games before deciding that they should just build a device with a controller built right in. And that is exactly what they did.

The device is powered by Android, an established mobile operating system and uses the comapny's Tegra 4 SoC - two steps that didn't require any extra work.

The first prototype was little more than a controller connected to a smartphone with a piece of wood. From there, everything was done in-house including sculpting the new controller, writing software and selecting the necessary hardware.

Getting the device ready for CES was a massive challenge as the company had to fly in engineers from China and Texas in December to work on the project. The first fully functional prototypes weren’t ready until December 18, less than three weeks before the trade show – and they had flaws. Nvidia was able to iron out the kinks just in time for CEO Jen-Hsun Huang to showcase the device on the eve of CES earlier this month.