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What is GeForce NOW and is it worth it?

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NVIDIA

It’s not easy to buy a graphics card in early 2022, and even consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are in short supply. If you’re looking for a way to play the latest games, you might want to consider a cloud gaming service like GeForce NOW.

How does cloud gaming work?

Cloud gaming lets you use just about any device with an internet connection to stream gameplay over the internet. This means that the game does not run locally on your device (eg smartphone) but runs remotely in the cloud.

You will need a game control method connected to the device of your choice. It could be a gamepad or console controller tied to your smartphone, or it could be a more traditional PC game control scheme consisting of a keyboard and mouse . Since the game runs over the internet, you can theoretically use cloud gaming over wired, wireless, or cellular connections.

This lets you enjoy the latest PC and console releases anywhere, on virtually any modern hardware. There are a few other things to be aware of, like choosing a device with a high-enough screen and making sure your connection quality stays consistent (playing on cellular on a moving train might not work too well, for example) .

Cloud gaming first emerged with the arrival of the OnLive service, which was launched in 2010 and eventually shut down in 2015. However, there are now many different cloud gaming services out there, and each tries to solve the problem of remote play on low power devices. in their own way. In addition to GeForce NOW, there’s Google Stadia, Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, Sony’s PlayStation Now, and Amazon Luna.

Why would you choose GeForce NOW?

GeForce NOW is unique in the cloud gaming space in that it lets you play games you already own. You can connect your Steam, Epic Games Store or Ubisoft Connect account to GeForce NOW and access over 1000 cloud games. This includes many free games, but unlike competing services, the GeForce NOW game library does not change with a premium subscription.

Instead, NVIDIA’s streaming service offers several different tiers that correspond to different levels of performance and fidelity. The free tier offers up to 1080p at 60 fps, with a limited session time of one hour. You only get standard access to the servers, so you may encounter queues, but it’s perfect for testing the service before you buy.

GeForce NOW Series
NVIDIA

There are two premium tiers: Priority and RTX 3080. The Priority tier sticks to 1080p at 60fps, but adds ray tracing, up to six hours of session time, and priority access to servers to reduce overhead. Waiting lines. You can access it for $9.99/month or $49.99 for six months access.

The newest tier promises performance equivalent to NVIDIA’s high-end RTX 3080 graphics card (which is currently very rare). It doesn’t actually use the RTX 3080 graphics card, but rather a server that spits out roughly equivalent performance. You’ll get 1440p gaming at up to 120fps on a PC or Mac, or 4K HDR gaming through an NVIDIA Shield (or compatible TV). That comes with up to eight hours of session length and premium server access, all for $99.99 for a six-month subscription (no monthly plan is currently available) .

How to Play GeForce NOW

NVIDIA’s cloud gaming service is currently available in the United States and much of Europe, although game availability may vary by region. Some regions like Australia are supported using partner services like Pentanet.

GeForce NOW is available through dedicated apps for Windows and macOS (available on the NVIDIA website), on Android devices and Android TV using the Google Play app, on smart TVs such as LG models and Samsung in the respective app stores and using an NVIDIA Shield TV. digital decoder. It is also possible to use Chrome, Safari for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and the Microsoft Edge browser using the web app at play.geforcenow.com.

Availability of Geforce NOW
NVIDIA

For high-res 1440p gaming, you’ll need a monitor that supports that resolution, and the same goes for 120fps gaming. In terms of controls, you can use most keyboards and mice, Xbox controllers (including Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series), Sony DualShock 4 (PS4), DualSense (PS5) controllers, and some Logitech gamepads and SteelSeries.

RELATED: The best gaming monitors of 2021

The advantages of the showcase support

The GeForce NOW approach still requires you to buy your games through your chosen storefront, of which Steam is the most represented. This arguably has more pros than cons, and it’s ideal if you view GeForce NOW as a workaround (which a lot of people are, given how hard GPUs are to come by right now).

When you buy a game on Steam, you can keep that game and use it on any future hardware you want to buy. So if you buy the latest build through Steam on day one and put 30 hours into it through GeForce NOW, next year when you finally get your hands on a new PC, you can just log into Steam and play it locally instead. It is not necessary to maintain a GeForce NOW subscription or use the service exclusively to play the game.

GeForce NOW Gaming Lineup
NVIDIA

The same goes for Epic Game Store and Ubisoft Connect, the other two supported services. Epic’s storefront has managed to collect many releases through exclusivity deals, which has led to many people using the service due to the availability of games. Having to use Epic’s storefront might not be your average gamer’s idea of ​​a good time, but being able to use this storefront through the cloud or locally has its benefits. NVIDIA is also promising to bring Epic’s Fortnite back to the iPhone via GeForce NOW.

Then there are Steam’s mega sales and Epic’s free game giveaways. Steam has two big sales a year (a summer sale and a year-end blowout), while the Epic Game Store has given away not just critically acclaimed games, but entire franchises in an effort to encourage more of users to create an account and download it. It’s a great way to save money, and many of these titles are playable with GeForce NOW to boot.

Sounds good, but what about the downsides?

The biggest downside to any cloud gaming service is performance, or latency to be more specific. Depending on factors such as your internet connection speed, distance from the server, and your connection type, the type of experience you can get through a service like GeForce NOW can vary wildly.

There are several data exchanges to consider when using cloud gaming. First, the game must be streamed to you from the server. To interact, you will send a signal (like a button press) which will then be sent to the server and processed. The cycle then begins again as the results of your actions are relayed to you.

Skeptical about how it will work? Fortunately, GeForce NOW offers a free tier that you can use for evaluation. Sign up, join the queue, and test the service thoroughly with a few different games before buying. The performance you get against the free tier in terms of latency (or how “slow” the game is to play) should give you an indication of whether or not the higher tier services are relevant.

The type of game you play can often make or break a serve like this. Games that don’t rely on feedback like automation and resource management simulation Satisfactory work much better than multiplayer shooters or beat ’em ups. You’ll probably want to rule out fast-paced multiplayer games entirely in favor of single-player experiences.

Another downside of GeForce NOW in particular is that it doesn’t include a library of games to jump into like many of its rivals. If you start cold without a game library on Steam or a similar service, you’ll pay for GeForce NOW to spend more money on the games in order to use the service.

What about the contest?

Of the cloud gaming services currently available, Google Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly xCloud) are the two closest rivals to GeForce NOW. Each of these offers something different.

Google Stadia also requires you to purchase games, but these titles must be purchased through the Stadia store. This means that you cannot use these games outside of Google Stadia, such as running them locally on a PC. Stadia also offers a Stadia Pro tier which includes a selection of free games, with more added every month.

Xbox Cloud Gaming is available with the Ultimate tier of Xbox Game Pass for $14.99 per month. For that fee, you can play much of the Game Pass catalog on devices like smartphones, browsers, and Xbox consoles. You cannot purchase additional games like you can with Stadia or GeForce NOW, and none of the games are yours.

But Microsoft’s solution is more of a bonus for Game Pass subscribers than a genuine alternative to playing on native hardware, so it works better as an accompaniment to a console or gaming PC than as a replacement.

Try before you buy

If you’re the least bit tempted by GeForce NOW (or any other cloud gaming service), you should give the service a try before committing any money. This will determine whether your money is well spent or not.

If you already have a library of games or want to build one, GeForce NOW is one of the best value propositions in cloud gaming right now. If you’d rather jump into a cloud gaming experience that includes a library of titles you can play right away, take a look at Microsoft’s Game Pass.

RELATED: What is Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud)?