Nvidia’s big game-streaming competitor to Google Stadia and Microsoft Project xCloud, GeForce Now, is finally launching today. While Stadia relies on a cultivated selection of games, and Project xCloud leans largely on Xbox One-only titles, the biggest appeal of Nvidia GeForce Now is the ability to play just about any PC game you want.
GeForce Now lets you play PC games, with minimal fuss, on any PC, MacOS, or Android device. Want to play Overwatch on your Samsung phone or Red Dead Redemption 2 on your MacBook Air? The idea is, you just log in and go.
GeForce Now isn’t a game store. Instead, it’s a service that ties into your existing game store accounts (it supports nearly every major PC game store including Steam, Epic, GoG, and Blizzard). So, if the service ever dies, you’ll still own your games—though you may lose saves if you don’t have cloud saves enabled for each respective service.
Compared to Stadia and Project xCloud, which both have a smaller selection of games and require specific controllers, GeForce Now feels robust.
Historically, however, GeForce Now has been... a little inconsistent. First, there was a similar service, also called GeForce Now, that allowed you to play a selection of games offered by Nvidia or streamed directly from your PC. That service launched as Nvidia Grid back in 2013. In 2015, it was rebranded GeForce Now and the beta became available on Nvidia’s Android set-top box, the Nvidia Shield. I regularly used it to play Witcher 3, but then the service would crash, or the game would crash, or both would crash and I’d inevitably return to my PC for a more reliable (and prettier) experience.
In 2017 a new service launched into beta with the same name. But instead of playing a small selection of games offered by Nvidia, you could play any game you own through other PC gaming stores. As with the original GeForce Now, it was not without its connectivity issues.
But GeForce Now has improved over the years. Besides being on the Shield it’s launched on Android, PC, and MacOS. Now I can play a four-hour session of Civilization VI with few hiccups. As GeForce Now supports nearly every major PC game store, I can, and have, played other stuff too. If it’s a PC game you can probably play it via GeForce now. All you have to do is log in.
Starting today, there will be two GeForce Now account types, both streaming at a max of 1080p and 60 frames per second. If you don’t want to pay anything you can get a free account, which lets you play for an hour at a time and could put you in a queue behind others on busy days. Bump up to the Founder’s account for $5 a month, and you get up to six hours of gameplay at a time, ray tracing in the games streamed to your device, and “priority access.” That means you’re less likely to be stuck in a queue.
The problem with GeForce Now, and the reason why my review will be coming later this week instead of alongside this announcement, is that it feels much more susceptible to internet hiccups than its Google and Microsoft rivals. Nvidia recommends 50Mbps for the best experience, 30Mbps for 1080p60, and 15Mbps for 720p60. However, in practice, I just don’t get the results I’d expect with those speeds. While my games are typically fine on an Nvidia Shield, when I switch over to my MacBook Pro, I get “spotty internet” notifications a lot. Those notifications usually come with a significant drop in streaming quality too, and they show up regardless of which internet connection I’m using. I’ve gotten the notifications at the office, at home, and even when I try just connecting to 4G via my smartphone.
More testing, particularly now that the service is rolled out, feels required. But if you want to do your own testing you can check out GeForce Now right this moment.
Correction: This story originally stated GeForce Now has been in beta since 2013. That is incorrect. The current service named GeForce Now has only been available since 2017. A previous service, also named GeForce Now, originally launched in 2013 and entered beta in 2015. We’ve corrected the above story and sincerely apologize for the error.