After months of lofty promises that its online video game streaming would render traditional consoles irrelevant, Google Stadia launched last year. But while we were impressed the technology worked as well as it did, the experience was still compromised. Even worse, it’s been weeks since a new game came to the service and users still don’t know when to expect promised updates. So right now “Who will be the Netflix of streaming video games?” is still a totally open question. It could be Google. It could be Microsoft.
Or it could be Nvidia. Years ago you may have heard of Nvidia services called GeForce Now that offered streaming subscriptions on various Shield devices. But now the most ambitious incarnation of the service yet is out of beta and ready to offer you all of your games anywhere.
Going back to Google Stadia’s flaws, a big one is that users are limited to whatever games Google currently offers. And aside from the rare free game your access to these games you have to pay for is tied to your Stadia subscription you pay for. You really feel the lack of ownership inherent to streaming services.
GeForce Now mitigates this in a big way though by allowing you to import many of the Steam games you already own into the service. You can’t bring over everything. Ironically, some of Stadia’s biggest hits from Rockstar and Square Enix aren’t compatible with GeForce Now. But there’s already much more flexibility with integrating this into your existing gaming life rather than starting from scratch.
Beyond that, it’s the same pitch as any other game streaming service. By “virtually adding a GeForce graphics card” to your device, you can play a cutting-edge PC game, complete with ray tracing, on a mobile phone or laptop or whatever if you have a good enough internet connection. Controllers as well as mouse and keyboard are supported. Early reports suggest Stadia might have the edge in terms of low-latency. But all of these services still need to gather gobs of data from real-world players before they’re completely optimized.
GeForce Now is bound to get way more players now that it is out of beta. You can play for free but you’ll be subjected to waitlists and play sessions limited to one hour. The $5 per month Founders subscriptions gives you priority access, RTX, and six-hour sessions at a time.