GeForce Now is on iOS. Luna is on iOS. Stadia and xCloud are coming to iOS in the not too distant future. Ideally, this would have been through a stand-alone app and not the Safari browser, but hey, when Apple says you have to submit every individual game on your cloud gaming platform for review to get it on the App Store, you improvise. These companies have likely been working on iOS web app support long before Epic Games vs. Apple saga started. But that’s not as important as cloud gaming hitting one of its major promises: playing games on any device. We’re there. The cloud has made gaming more accessible to those who might not have the cash or the desire to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gaming PC or laptop.
Yet every single one of these platforms does cloud gaming in a different way. Each one is crafted for a different kind of user in mind, but right now none are as consumer-friendly as GeForce Now. Not only can you use it on PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebook, and Shield (a media streaming device like Chromecast), but it’s free to use and it’s compatible with over 650 games that you might already own on Steam, Epic, GOG, or Ubisoft.
GeForce Now has a “bring your own games” model, which connects to accounts you have on other digital storefronts to let you play the same games over the cloud instead of your local machine. It’s the only dedicated cloud gaming service that doesn’t require a subscription nor you to purchase games from its service. Of course, if you want to pay $5 a month you can play games with ray tracing, get extended play sessions, and get priority access to re-join the server queue, but if you ever decide to stop paying for all those extra perks, you won’t lose your games. They’re still right where you bought ‘em.
Call me old-school, but growing up in a time long before downloadable copies of games existed has made me a staunch advocate of consumers owning the games they purchase. Sure, you pay more money up front, but if you play a game often enough and long enough, that $50 or $60 game more than pays for itself in a few months. And you can always return to it without restarting a subscription. GeForce Now combines the best of that old-school model with cloud gaming.
The only catch is that if there’s a game you want to play that GeForce Now isn’t compatible with, you have to either find it on another service, play it locally on your PC (if you can), or wait until it comes to GeForce Now. But every cloud gaming platform has its limitations on the library front, and other than that GeForce Now is cut-and-dry. Straight forward. Uncomplicated. In a world that is dominated by subscription services for practically everything, it’s so nice not to have to worry about one for video games.
Stadia, Luna, and xCloud are all great, but I see them as the back-ups to GeForce Now. Their libraries are much smaller at the moment, and they all use subscription models that revoke access to your games once you stop paying. In the case of Luna ($6/month) and xCloud ($15/month with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) your ability to access the cloud and play games on different devices goes when your subscription is up. Stadia does have individual games for purchase, but any games you get for “free” on its $10 a month Pro subscription tier disappear once your subscription is up.
Each service gets a little more complicated from there. Luna, for instance, has positioned itself early on to offer channels like Prime Video. That $6 a month will get you around 50 games already included with “base” Luna, but if you want to add on the Ubisoft game channel, that’s another $15 a month. You don’t need the base service to get the Ubisoft channel, but if you want both that monthly price becomes $21 a month. Some people might like that model, but if there’s a game I want, I just want that game.
One of the most annoying things about the subscription cloud model for games, movies, and TV shows is that feeling like I have to hunt around for that one game I want to play or that one movie I want to watch. I get it—studios are going to make deals with specific streaming services so they can attract more people to their service. Hell, I bought a PS4 in the past just so I could play an exclusive title. When Fable 4 is eventually released, I’ll buy an Xbox Series X just to play it if it’s not on PC. But these days I often find myself heading to Amazon first to rent or purchase something specific just so I don’t have to waste time looking across Hulu, Netflix, Shudder, CBS All Access, whatever. If I can get a physical copy of a movie, even better. When Friends left Netflix, I bought the entire collection on Blu-ray because I didn’t want to subscribe to yet another streaming service.
I feel the same way with Stadia and xCloud. I’ve already invested in so many individual copies of games on Steam, Epic, and Ubisoft that it makes zero sense for me to purchase another copy on Stadia or get an Ubisoft subscription just to play it in the cloud when GeForce Now is around. (Not to mention I’ve claimed nearly every free game Epic has offered over the last year. No subscription required.) And sure, you can buy stand-alone copies of all the xCloud-enabled games, but if you want to play in the cloud, which is limited to Android devices at the moment, you have to get the subscription.
Cloud gaming is for everyone, but gaming subscriptions? Not so much. If you spend all of your free time playing games, or want to try out a few games on the cheap before committing to a stand-alone copy, OK, paying for a subscription for just a month or two is a logical choice, especially since game demos aren’t really a thing anymore. No cloud gaming service stands a chance against a bad internet or mobile connection, but in a world where scalpers buy up all the new graphics cards and processors and consoles the day of release, cloud gaming is the best go-to alternative to play the games you want if you don’t have the system you want—and when it comes to cost and convenience, GeForce Now has the best model.