NVIDIA’s approach to cloud gaming isn’t exactly a new venture for the company. In fact, GeForce NOW has been around in one way or another for about 8 years. Many have taken stabs at cloud gaming and game streaming from your personal computer has been a thing for even longer. What NVIDIA is doing with GeForce Now isn’t a unique venture or a completely new take on gaming. Instead, it is a similar approach to game streaming not unlike Google’s Stadia, but with a twist: you get to bring along many of the games you already own.
Instead of being a new platform or new system, GeForce NOW is a more classic take on game streaming and supports games that run via Steam, the Epic Games Store, Battle.net, and Uplay. If you own games in these libraries, you can link those games up and play them on the current list of supported devices. That list includes Windows PCs, Macs, Android phones, and the Shield TV. Notably absent is suport for the iPhone or iPad, and it seems there are no plans to support them, either. NVIDIA did also say that a web player would be coming and will use webRTC to deliver game streaming via the browser, so Chromebook support will arrive eventually.
I was able to log into my NVIDIA GeForce NOW account and get Apex Legends up and running quite quickly, and I was very surprised that the input lag was almost unnoticeable and the mouse/keyboard support was baked right in on my Pixel phone. While I don’t forsee myself playing epic, desktop-class games on a 6-inch screen very often, I could easily get excited by the prospect doing so on a tablet or Chromebook in the near future.
Having instant access to a handful of my Steam titles and free-to-play games like Apex Legends and Fortnite right out of the box is probably GeForce Now’s greatest strength currently. Since it is leveraging existing game libraries and simply using powerful cloud servers running those games, players don’t have to consider re-purchasing a game they want to play on the service. That doesn’t mean my entire Steam library is here. I can’t play CS:GO or any of Valve’s Source games at this point, but that could change as well.
It’s not all a utopia, however, as the interface and the way you get into games lacks quite a bit of polish. This is to be expected, honestly, when streaming games from so many different, existing services. For instance, when firing up Fortnite, you see the Epic Games Store interface before launching into a session and Apex Legends does the same thing. I was even able to poke around the Steam interface a bit during one game launch and only saw errors when trying to launch games that didn’t originate from the GeForce Now dashboard.
I’ve also had issue running some of the compatible games on my phone that run just fine on the Shield TV. Games like PUBG are available for play on the Shield TV GeForce Now, but are oddly absent from my library on the phone. I’ve reached out for support on this, but I haven’t solved the issue just yet. Additionally, just this morning my Shield TV took an update and now many of my Steam games that worked fine before are no longer working at all.
Stuff like this is what makes the overall feel of GeForce Now so very different from Stadia. With Stadia, as long as a game is available, I log in and play. Simple, clean and effective. With GeForce now things feel decidedly unfinished and a tad bit hacky. I’m good with that as long as the end product is me playing PUBG on my Chromebook eventually, but for many users, I don’t know how this whole thing will really translate.
You can try out GeForce NOW completely for free (limited to one hour of gameplay per day) or jump in on their Founder’s package for only $5 per month with the first 3 months free. Founders get perks like more priority access to servers, extended session times (still limited to 6 hours per session), and ray tracing graphics on titles that support it. It’s all a very good start and I could see GeForce NOW becoming a major player in the game streaming market if they can keep adding to their already-impressive game library and continue making the overall user experience a bit smoother all around. But, just like Stadia, there is much work to be done before this service is a simple and easy recommend to a casual gamer like myself.