Getting into the world of PC gaming is often seen as a cumbersome and expensive undertaking. Unless you want to break the bank on a sweet gaming desktop, your computer gaming experience is limited to whatever extremely low-fidelity games your standard laptop can handle. Nvidia looks to take this problem head on with GeForce NOW. The new streaming service will allow users to “Transform any Mac or PC into a high-performance gaming rig.” This is accomplished via a series of streams and cloud syncs. From the outside looking in, this sounds too good to be true. After getting to witness it work in person, I can confirm to you, it isn’t.
At E3 2018, I got to go for about half an hour with GFN. During my demo, there were two completely identical $400 windows laptops. These computers were meant for simple daily tasks, not gaming. Both laptops were running PUBG; one computer had the game installed internally while the other was streaming it via GFN. On the computer that had installed the game internally, PUBG ran like a nightmare. No more than 5 frames per second rendered the game completely unplayable. Meanwhile, on the other laptop, PUBG ran as smooth as I’ve ever seen that game perform. During my demo I experienced zero hiccups.
I tried to pull back the curtain and see exactly what was going on here, because I myself was skeptical as to how practical this service would actually be. Every concern I had was met with straightforward reassurement. I questioned how heavily input latency would impact competitive online games like PUBG and Overwatch; I was told that when playing on Nvidia’s GFN with the assistance of a high-quality internet connection, players could experience cloud gaming with the same levels of latency experienced on an Xbox One or PS4.
Accessibility and Pricing
One of the concerns I took away from my demo was accessibility and pricing. GFN seems as though it’s being marketed towards the more dedicated gaming audience, which isn’t abnormal for a Nvidia product. The issue is that hardcore gamers aren’t looking to stream games to their $400 laptop, they’re the ones spending big dollars on higher-end gaming rigs. A final price point hasn’t been nailed down yet, but the current proposal is $25 for 20 hours of GTX 1060 gameplay which will surely give gamers pause, forcing them to wonder to what extent is the service actually worth it. The numbers get even higher when talking about GTX 1080 quality gameplay.
Cloud gaming on PC isn’t a brand new idea, but it is the first time we’ve seen a company as seasoned as Nvidia confidently diving headfirst onto the platform. Being able to beam games from my existing accounts on Steam, Origin, Battle.net, etc. to a lower-end laptop and getting high-end performance is mouth-watering. That being said, GFN’s not-so-cheap price range, coupled with its strong demand for clear and powerful bandwidth means it’s destined to be a second option. I don’t see a world in which ones primary source of gaming is through GFN on their laptop, but it’s going to be a more than solid second option when you’re away from your gaming rig/console and get the hankering for a savory chicken dinner.