NVIDIA is an undisputed powerhouse in the PC gaming industry, thanks to its pioneering of the gaming GPU and efforts in accelerated gaming graphics. It’s long been the company to beat in the highest-performance arena, and is one who I follow very, very closely. In 1999, the company launched the first of its GeForce line of consumer-level PC graphics chips, the GeForce 256. Since then, the GeForce line has come a long way—the most GeForce 16 series launched this past year. One thing that has been fascinating to watch is the transformation from GeForce as merely a graphics chip into a full-blown gaming platform, incorporating hardware, software and services. Back in 2017, NVIDIA announced its foray into the game streaming market with GeForce NOW (I wrote on this development at the time, which you can find here and here if interested). This week NVIDIA announced the service is finally out of the Beta phase and generally available. Let’s take a look at what consumers can expect from NVIDIA GeForce NOW.
Play next-gen games on yesterday’s hardware
Any serious PC gamer will attest that it is an expensive hobby. In order to play the latest games, you have to continually be upgrading and souping up your system to meet the titles’ system requirements. Still the PC is the most popular gaming platform worldwide, with over 1.2 billion players. The premise of GeForce NOW is that gamers can now take advantage of NVIDIA’s latest GPU architectures from afar, via the cloud, to play the latest titles on their perhaps less-than-modern device. Sign up for a membership, and wham—your PC, Mac, NVIDIA SHIELD device, or even your Android phone now essentially has a GeForce graphics card (with Chromebook support coming later this year).
One of my favorite things about GeForce NOW is that it is BYOL—bring your own license—from any game and any store (e.g. Steam). This means gamers can utilize this open platform to play all the titles they already own and continue to build out their libraries from their favorite PC game stores. Additionally, GeForce NOW comes with a library of over 30 free-to-play games (with more to come) already patched to the cloud, and over 1,000 titles that can be accessed through single-session installs. The service utilizes NVIDIA’s Game Ready Drivers to optimize performance, and NVIDIA promises users “the precision of keyboard and mouse gaming.” Additionally, the company says the service comes optimized for game controllers.
All of this will now be available to the general public, via either a free option or a still very affordable $4.99 monthly (for the first 12 months) “Founders” membership. The free option gives gamers standard access to the service, with a limited 1-hour session length. Those who were already using GeForce NOW in beta are, as of today, automatically enrolled in this free option. The Founders tier, on the other hand, gives gamers priority access, extended session length, and the ability to play cutting edge RTX titles with ray tracing. As if all of this isn’t good enough, the Founders membership comes with a free 90-day introductory period so gamers can try it out to make sure it’s something they can’t live without (my bet is that many of them will decide that it is).
All things considered, I really like NVIDIA’s approach with GeForce NOW. The BYOL strategy is a game changer—no gamer should have to jettison the ability to play their already purchased games for a new service. I like to think of the service as renting a high-performance game PC in the cloud. I see the free subscription option as the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience—did I mention that gamers can play as many of these 1-hour sessions as they want? And while this is a great deal, I’m sure many serious gamers will want the ability to play ray tracing titles and not be limited to 1-hour sessions. For those gamers, $4.99 a month is an incredibly cheap price to pay for a high-end PC gaming cloud “rental.” Microsoft xCloud won’t have to worry, but Google Stadia needs to watch out—GeForce NOW represents a direct competitor to it. GeForce NOW looks like a serious offering—I’d expect nothing less from the likes of NVIDIA. I’ll be watching eagerly for the reveal of the first subscription numbers to see just how good of a thing the company has on its hands.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.