Nvidia just opened the floodgates to GeForce Now, their cloud streaming service that promises to democratize PC gaming on ultra settings for everyone.
In theory, GeForce now allows everyone to play the best PC games on the highest possible quality, the highest possible settings, regardlesss of their platform of choice. Would you like Witcher 3 with everything dialed up to ultra settings running at a smooth 60FPS on a cheap Chromebook? Easy-peasy! At least, theoretically.
In practice, though, not everything is rosy. Read on to find out why.
The game streaming market is getting crowded
Right after Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, Nvidia is the next company to provide online game streaming service. It is obvious that many companies want a piece of the pie, since gaming is a huge $100 billion industry. Microsoft’s XBox and Sony’s Playstation have also entered the game streaming market in 2019.
GeForce Now plans and pricing
Most game streaming services only provide the hardware and streaming technology. They still require you to pay for the games, even though you have previously purchased it.
GeForce Now doesn’t.
Unlike its competitors, GeForce Now doesn’t sell games (at least, for now): it allows you to stream (some of) the games you bought from stores like Steam and uPlay from nVidia’s servers, without having to install them on your own hardware.
GeForce Now opened for the general public with two plans:
- Free, but with a 1-hour limit per gaming session and waiting in queues for a free slot.
- $4.99 for a year, paid per month, with “priority access” (zero waiting in queues) and up to 6-hours per gaming session. And RTX support for ray-tracing on top, for the titles that support it.
Note that those plans are temporary and expected to change.
Download and install GeForce Now
Visit its page at Nvidia’s official site and click on “Join” to create an account for the service.
Follow the steps to create an account from scratch, or use the Nvidia account you might already have (like the one you might be using with GeForce Experience) to log in to GeForce Now.
Visit GeForce Now’s download page and download the service’s client for your platform. There are options for Windows PC, Mac OS, Nvidia Shield, and Android devices.
Note that we tested the service on a typical PC since it’s suggested you use a cabled network connection (as in “Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi”) for optimal results.
Install the client and agree to the notice regarding data collection. Although we don’t know the full extent of the data Nvidia collects, it’s realistic for such a service to need information on our geographical region, connection speeds, CPU and GPU performance, and available RAM. Video streaming can’t work with a “one size fits all” approach.
Click on “Log in”, at the top right of the client’s window, to enter the service.
Enter your account’s details in the window that pops up. Although you can also log-in with a Facebook or Google account, we already had an Nvidia account for use with GeForce Experience, so we used that.
When you log in for the first time, your games library will be empty. Click on “Find and add your games” to start populating it.
You can start typing directly in the search bar, at the top of the window, the title of a game you’d like to add to the service. Remember, you can only add games you already own in other stores.
After you’ve added some titles to your library, hover over one of them and click “Play” to do precisely that.
GeForce Now will analyze your network capabilities to offer the best experience possible by finding the server closest to you and auto-adjust its settings.
A quick connection doesn’t guarantee an optimal experience: if you’re away from Nvidia’s server’s, as GeForce Now will inform you, “you may experience stutter or high latency.” Unfortunately, the only solution is to move next door to one of Nvidia’s servers, or wait for the service to expand more.
When you connect to the service, you’ll meet an empty virtual desktop. Think of it as a second, virtual PC of yours. You’ll have to log-in there, too, into the shop’s client from where you bought the game you’re trying to run.
The free tier of the service will have you re-install any game you want to play, but the process is almost instant.
After the (remote and painless) installation completes, the game will appear on your screen.
The first service of its kind to truly achieve what it promises, GeForce Now feels both like a slice out of our gaming future, but also as a beta.
- Depending on the time of day and the network conditions, latency can skyrocket. When I first tried it, I thought it would be a constant problem because of my distance from Nvidia’s servers (I live in Greece), but the situation improved later to the point of being almost indistinguishable from the game running locally. And then it worsened, again.
- It offers a limited selection of games (but genuinely massive compared to its competitors) and doesn’t allow you to install unsupported titles (although, from a technological standpoint, it could).
- It presents a strange mix of titles, missing new and popular ones (like Red Dead Redemption 2) and classics (like all Deus Ex titles). It’s not guaranteed you’ll be able to play all your favorite games through it.
Since its basic membership has zero costs, works as advertised, and already supports hundreds of titles, we’re basically nitpicking. You can’t really blame a free service that allows you to play Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight trilogy locked at 60FPS, at max settings, on a 300$ laptop.
Even if, no, it doesn’t run Crysis.