Lots of people would love to play the latest PC games, but the expense of maintaining a gaming rig capable of playing the latest games leaves plenty of potential gamers out cold. It’s worse if you’re a Mac user. I don’t need to tell you that your gaming options are sad and pathetic.
Nvidia wants to change that with its expanded GeForce Now service. Nvidia originally launched the service for it’s Shield set top box to give the system a larger library of video games. Nvidia basically created a cluster of high-end gaming PC that lives in the cloud and that gamers can rent directly from Nvidia and control remotely from their own device. Earlier this week Nvidia announced that the service was being expanded and coming to the PC and Mac.
Strictly speaking, this concept isn’t new. A few years ago, cloud gaming was poised to be the next big thing, with companies such as OnLive and Gaikai, promising greatness. OnLive crashed and burned back in 2012 (Sony bought its remains in 2015) and Gaikai became the basis for PlayStation Now.
Still, Nvidia’s approach is a bit more robust. Those early cloud gaming platforms only worked with specific games, and the selection was often limited. GeForce Now works with Steam and Green Man Gaming, the two largest online game stores, and from Gizmodo’s own hands on (in a super controlled environment) it appears to run pretty damn well, playing Witcher 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider on two Macs with zero hiccups.
So how much does this cost? Nvidia is charging by the hour (similar to the way Amazon charges for its cloud computing services) and $25 will give you 20 hours of gameplay on a PC with one of Nvidia’s high end 1080 video cards. It sounds like a steep price, but owning a similar PC would cost $1200 minimum. That’s a lot of hours of GeForce Now to play.
The big concern for GeForce Now—and one that’s hamstrung past cloud gaming attempts—was bandwidth and latency. You have to have a fast enough connection and a fast enough client to deliver gameplay without hiccups. Nvidia claims it worked for more than five years go get this right, but we won’t know for sure until we try it out ourselves when it launches in March.