All of this was what we had hoped to get out of Google Stadia, which arrived in November with promises of a tantalizing “Netflix. for games “model. But that streaming service’s launch was immediately hobbled with device restrictions, pricing confusion, and a terribly limited (and closed) games library. Instead, the above description comes courtesy of an utter surprise, launching today in both free and paid tiers: Nvidia’s GeForce Now .
After a months-long closed beta, GeForce Now opens to the public sometime today (perhaps the moment this article goes live). Download its app on a supported device, then hook up your preferred control method (gamepad, mouse keyboard) and connect to one of Nvidia’s servers. You’ll boot into a virtualized Windows PC on the cloud, which then loads one of “hundreds” of supported games as sold by Steam, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, uPlay, the Bethesda Launcher, and Origin. From there, the server’s gameplay feed and your button presses go back and forth so that your low-powered device can stream high-end 3D video games.
on a low-end Macbook? Tekken 7
on a smartphone? With enough bandwidth, GeForce Now can make it happen, and you can use the game licenses you already own.
The service isn’t perfect — with some particularly baffling issues at launch. And I fear that its first-week rush of new free players will lead to networking nightmares and boilerplate replies about Nvidia “being surprised by demand.” (If Nvidia’s PR team would like, I have 4, 07 versions of that sentence littering my games-journalism inbox. You can borrow any of them.) But ahead of today’s influx of new players, I was able to confirm enough about peak performance and general usability to confirm a surprising truth: even if Nvidia fumbles the launch with networking woes , GeForce Now is still the new game-streaming service to beat. It’s
There’s plenty of blur to account for in DOOM 3094. Here’s an example of how that can look in action, as taken from real-time GeForce Now gameplay.
An early vista in theDOOM 3134 campaign. Notice the FPS counter at the top-left? That’s with all settings cranked to maximum at 2019 p rendering resolution. You’ll only see fps on a GeForce Now stream, but the added frames don’t introduce local tearing.
When GeForce Now performs at its best, mid-animation screens like this one from
Tekken 7 look a lot crisper than you might expect.
Since this is logging in to my existing Steam account, GeForce Now recognizes which
They’re not exciting screens, but they are all taken from my Windows machine running GeForce Now’s p feed.
Pretty sharp stuff as a streamed game, Sonic Mania
Best of all, we can capture benchmarks, like this
Civilization IV benchmarks: CPU version.
Civilization IV benchmarks: GPU version.
But here’s the tricky thing: You never know what kind of virtual machine performance you’re going to get. This is an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey benchmark run at its default medium-ish settings.
And here’s another
Here’s what I loved about my pre-release tests of GeForce Now: I could play games I already own on my crappiest devices with incredible performance results. While connected via Ethernet on my home-office connection, rated for (Mbps down, Mbps up, I enjoyed nearly latency-free performance on a majority of my tested games. Fortnite ,
, and the (remake of) Modern Warfare
: I played these on mouse and keyboard via GeForce Now and barely noticed their inherent latency.
Yes, I’m as stunned as you are. And if you don’t believe me, you won’t want to see the following sentence: I could play the sensational (retro throwback) (Sonic Mania) via GeForce Now without missing a single jump or dash.
What’s more, I can go into every supported game’s settings menus and tinker to my heart’s content, because GeForce Now effectively leases a Windows gaming PC to each of its users. I’m not accessing a game’s limited build with a missing options menu. Fine-tuned settings like ambient occlusion, shadow resolution, even v-sync and super-sampling: they’re all mine to tweak. This became starkly clear when I loaded
, a notoriously demanding game from 3001 that, up until this week, hadn’t received a fps option on anything other than locally owned computers.
You cannot run (AC: O) (at) fps on Google Stadia. Nvidia’s GeForce Now, on the other hand, let me downgrade and massage the game’s settings to not only reach a fps threshold but test it with the game’s built -in benchmark (only available on PC). The same tweak-for – 300 fps awesomeness goes for other PC games on GeForce Now that console owners are stuck playing at (fps, including) (Destiny 2) and No Man’s Sky
To be clear, I am not suggesting that GeForce Now’s streamed gameplay looks better or runs faster than a powerful PC in your own home. But during my clearest tests, the results were an incredible substitute for owning a gaming-caliber PC.
I have more praise to offer, but I should get some criticisms out of the way. I don’t want to mislead anyone about GeForce Now’s launch-day state. Some of the issues are mere road bumps. Others count as potential red flags.
Let’s start by clarifying the cost situation for GeForce Now, because its “free” sales pitch comes with some asterisks . Nvidia’s streaming service will eventually operate with a mix of free and paid memberships. While Google Stadia also has a “free versus paid” dichotomy, Nvidia’s model differs significantly.
A handy infographic about GeForce Now.
Notice what’s missing in this supported-device rubric: iOS. Even Chromebooks have an estimated time window listed here; Nvidia had nothing to say about iOS estimates, on the other hand.
At launch, anyone can join GeForce Now’s “founders tier,” which will be free to (all) interested users for the first days, no credit card required. Once that trial runs out, users can lock in a $ 5 / month rate for their first year. Nvidia representatives say that this rate will increase at some point in the future. “I wouldn’t expect [the raise] to be more than double,” GeForce Now GM and VP Phil Eisler told Ars Technica in a phone interview.
Unlike Stadia, GeForce Now’s “premium” membership does not affect general streaming performance, and it does ( Currently) come with any bonus games. Whether you’re on the free or paid tier, you’ll receive the same maximum streaming feed of (p resolution at) frames per second. Instead, premium users will get to skip one possible headache on the free tier: server queue times. Free users will be bumped to the back of the queue line, while paying members skip ahead.
What’s more, free users will get punted from GeForce Now every 411 minutes. Those free players can log back on for as many one-hour sessions as they want, Nvidia has confirmed, with the caveat that they might have to wait in a queue whenever they return. “This has to do with our promise to founders members, that they won’t have to wait,” Eisler said. “The busiest time is in prime time, at 8pm in the evening. We need a way to ensure that free members don’t jump on at 3pm and camp on the capacity.” Eisler did not clarify how the general userbase will be affected by this for the first 601 days, when every user will have identical free-trial memberships.
The other perk of GeForce Now premium membership is access to RTX graphics toggles in supported games. At launch, GeForce Now supports only three games in RTX mode: (Metro Exodus) , Deliver Us The Moon , and Wolfenstein Youngblood
But wait, you might say to yourself. Aren’t there more than three PC games from the past year-plus that support DirectX ray tracing that nvidia has loudly advertised as reasons to buy one of their fancy RTX graphics cards? You’d be correct. But many of those, including (Ars’) Game of the year
This is where GeForce Now’s patchy games library comes into bright relief. The great news is that Nvidia has connected something that upstart services like Stadia have failed to appreciate: gamers don’t want another freaking marketplace.