Nvidia Brings Power Gaming to the Cloud with GeForce NOW

GeForce NOWs six-month $100 tier that let’s players game using the equivalent of an RTX 3080 rig has officially been proclaimed “a big deal” by tech media, due to the fact that the top-rated $700 graphics card is virtually unavailable for legions of would-be purchasers (described as camping out at stores and resorting to truck heists to obtain them). After Google’s Stadia service was shuttered in February, some questioned whether cloud gaming had a viable future. First movers in the game space seem to feel GeForce NOW has provided a quality option.

After running extensive tests that included hotel Wi-Fi connectivity, a Wired reviewer called GeForce NOWs RTX 3080 tier “a nearly perfect stopgap” for those craving the high-end card, but unable to find one — a feat “the average person” will find “downright impossible,” according to the magazine, which likens it to “finding a Turbo Man doll on Christmas Eve.”

Using an M1 MacBook Air to play “Cyberpunk 2077” and “Control,” which make heavy use of Nvidias ray tracing and DLSS to really put the RTX 3080 platform through its paces, the Wired reviewer found that with high-speed connectivity (in the hundreds of megabits per second) the GeForce NOW RTX 3080 gameplay was “shockingly smooth, incredibly detailed” and “largely lag-free.”

With Internet speeds of less than Nvidia’s recommended 50Mbps — and sometimes as low as 25Mbps —  Wired’s reviewer was “pleasantly surprised,” encountering “the occasional, brief lag or graphical hiccup,” but for the most part unable to tell he wasn’t gaming on his own computer, but on “a server hundreds of miles away.”

Comparing the experience to  streaming Netflix versus playing a 4K HDR Blu-ray, gaming via GeForce NOW “requires some sacrifices” but “might be worth putting up with a few hiccups.”

The upside is high-end gaming on the go while a sticking point may be the price. At $100 per six months, the RTX 3080 plan costs about $17 per month. “That means that streaming games from Nvidias fancy graphics card in the cloud costs nearly as much as the most expensive Netflix plan, and you still have to bring your own games.”

Nvidia lets users access their libraries from Epic or Steam, “but not all games are supported,” Wired’s reviewer notes. “Its a lot to ask when you could just buy your own [RTX 3080 desktop graphics card] for an MSRP price of $700. Except, you can’t.” Retail prices for Nvidia’s RTX 3080-equipped laptops start at about $1,900.

Some gamers have been complaining that Nvidia has been capping the performance of GeForce NOW subscribers who opt-in at less than the full $200 per year rate. The Verge writes that Nvidia has admitted to capping frame-rates on 12 games for subscribers who are “grandfathered into the original $4.99 a month ‘Founders’ tier” or pay $100 per year for Priority access, in order “to ensure consistent performance.”

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