NVIDIA just cannonballed into the video game cloud streaming market with GeForce NOW. This service has been in beta for over a year and officially went live on February 4th, 2020. What makes GeForce NOW stand out from other current offers such as Google Stadia is the ability to add your existing games from Steam, Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Uplay which means there is no need to repurchase a game that you already own. The service is available on Windows, Mac, Nvidia SHIELD and Android devices. Since launch, I have used the service on all of the platforms mentioned with the majority of my time spent on my 2015 Nvidia SHIELD. Currently, there are two membership plans:
Free plan – Allows users to stream play up to 1hour per session. Once the hour is up, the user will have to relaunch the game and return back to the queue and wait for an available session. In my experience, I had zero wait time. Once my hour was up, I simply relaunched the game and was right back in. However, this is a new service so I’m sure the servers are not experiencing heavy traffic but regardless of that, I experienced no delays in reestablishing a connection.
Founders plan – This plan is $4.99 a month and currently offers a 90-day introductory period. The features include Priority Access,
Extended Session Length, and RTX ON.
The first 2 features are self-explanatory but for those unfamiliar with RTX, it is a graphics rendering development platform created by Nvidia to provide real-time ray tracing. Besides the RTX feature, Nvidia states games will stream at a max performance of 1080p 60 FPS for all users of the service. There are some bandwidth requirements for the best performance. You will need at least 15Mbps for 720p at 60fps and 25 Mbps for 1080p at 60fps. As expected, it’s recommended to use an Ethernet connection or 5G wireless connection. It’s also worth noting keyboard/mouse and controllers are supported.
I used an Xbox One Bluetooth controller and an 8bitdo sn30 Pro. Linking store accounts can be done in two ways. You can click on a game featured in the GeForce NOW interface or use the search tool and find a particular title. Not all games are currently supported but a large majority of popular games are such as Fortnite, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, DOOM (2016) and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. So now that we know what GeForce NOW offers as a service, let’s talk about the actual performance.
When it comes to running performance tests, I really wanted to push the limits. A service like this can bring new life to an old computer or make the ultimate dream of playing your “Triple-A” titles on the go with just your smartphone and controller a reality. When it comes to playing games on Ethernet / 5G Wi-Fi, the performance was as advertised on a new & old desktop running Windows 10. For all my tests, I used Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 due to the draw distance and constant light changes. I experienced the occasional drop to 50-55fps but for the most part, everything stayed consistent at 60fps 1080p. For my next test, I used a MacBook Pro 2012 model that only supports 802.11 b/g/n. The performance was also stable. I walked to the cutoff point of my router and was still able to play with the resolution dropping down to 720p.
Next up was the Nvidia SHIELD 2015 model. Since launch, the SHIELD was advertised as a great android TV-based device to function as a media hub and stream play all your high-end games. The Nvidia SHIELD supports 5G Wi-Fi connection along with Ethernet so performance was never an issue. In fact, there is a “free for SHIELD” tab that includes a number of quality titles you can play for free via the GeForce NOW service such as Batman Arkham City, Tomb Raider (2013), Borderlands 2 and Bioshock. Yes, these are older titles but for the low price of FREE, it’s a great way to jump into the service if you have no existing libraries to link.
My final test was playing GeForce NOW on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone paired with an Xbox one Bluetooth controller running on Verizon unlimited data 4G service. I have to admit, I was absolutely amazed that not only did the game run smoothly at 720p but had no lag/latency issues. The only issue I encountered was a “connection to server error”. I clicked retry and was right back in the game. I played for a few hours over a couple of days with no issues. As you can see from the image above if a physical controller is not paired an onscreen control set appears. I’m not a fan of onscreen controls, but the fact that it’s even an option is great.
Overall my experience with GeForce NOW exceeded my expectations. The ability to link my existing game libraries along with offering a free membership plan makes this the best currently available game streaming service. My only concern is that some publishers may refuse to have their video games listed. As of this writing, Activision / Blizzard and Capcom have removed their games. Nvidia released the following statement in response to Activision / Blizzard, “While unfortunate, we hope to work together with Activision Blizzard to re-enable these games and more in the future” I’m sure some agreement will be made with all publishers as positive feedback spreads that we finally have a service not trying to sell us games we already own.
GeForce NOW supported games search tool
Have you had a chance to try out GeForce Now yet? If so, please feel free to let us know what you think of the service in the comments section below.