Games

GeForce Now, the Streaming Service People Wanted from Google, Launches Today

You can even toy around, using games you already own, for free.

by Patrick Klepek
Feb 4 2020, 5:36pm

As someone who is constantly in different parts of the house with a busy child, the notion of being able to pull out my phone or laptop and start playing a game I’d normally experience on my big TV is incredibly appealing. Google’s Stadia service has so far been a bust, despite some impressive technology. But last week, I started toying around with Nvidia’s under-the-radar GeForce Now service, and came away really impressed because the tech also works well, and it lets you stream games (and cloud saves) you already have.

An incredibly appealing rumor about GeForce Now’s pricing is what got me to check out the service: free for anyone, so long as you’re only playing for an hour at a time. If you want to play longer, it’d be $5-per-month, and come with other benefits, like the ability to stream RTX (real-time ray tracing).

The rumors, it turns out, are very true. GeForce Now, launching today for everyone and anyone, comes with the same rumored price structure. Right now, the paid service is being billed as a “limited time offer” to become an early “founder” to GeForce Now. (Google used similar phrasing last year.) The first three months are free, and the rest is $5-per-month.

Reading between the lines: that pricing is likely to change in the future.

Nvidia also says there is “no limit to the amount of [free] sessions you can play,” but there’s the potential to get stuck in queue. If you pay, you don’t have to wait to start playing, and you can play for “up to six hours.” And because GeForce Now pulls from games you own, you don’t need to pay full price for a game all over again to test it out, as is the case on Stadia.

At the moment, GeForce Now is playable via PC, Mac, and Android phones. Nvidia said Chromebook support is coming “later this year.” So far, there’s been no word on iOS plans.

When I toyed with GeForce Now on VICE’s spotty in-office Internet, The Witcher 3’s performance was okay but not great. But this Internet that is barely supports scrolling Twitter. At home, it was a wildly different experience—smooth, playable, easy on the eyes. You can tell it’s a stream, but it’s fine? Of course, that all comes at the usual costs of intense bandwidth; when set to “balanced,” streaming at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, it’ll eat 10GB an hour. Eek. You can adjust the settings to bring it down, but look, streaming games is a bandwidth hog.

But as Google issues blog updates promising things—especially, you know, games—are coming, GeForce Now arrives with a lot more to start playing right now. The list of supported games is a weird point, though. Nvidia does not have a complete list of games you can play through GeForce Now, instead pointing people towards an unintuitive database to search.

It’s a little weird, yes, but all these services are at launch. More importantly, GeForce Now seems to have gone through its awkward beta phase in private, while Stadia continues to figure itself out in public view, after already asking people to pay money for the privilege.

At the very least, I know which one I’m going to be trying out the next time I find myself away from my normal TV, looking for something to play. I’ll be trying the service with actual games.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

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