CES 2018 this year is being held in Las Vegas, and things are already kicking off with the strongest show in the last few years. Today, NVIDIA kicked things off with the announcement of GeForce NOW, a streaming service for desktop and laptop computers available in beta. This is separate from, and not to be confused with, the existing service of the same name for the NVIDIA Shield Home Console, or the existing streaming capability for private networks using GeForce Experience on your personal computer. No, this is more like Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service, and it’s free for a limited time.
GeForce Now technically has been available for over a year on MacOS platforms, but its reach and use was limited. The service grants users access to a streamed remote desktop instance of a Windows virtual machine hosted in NVIDIA’s cloud. You pay for acces time to the virtual machine, and can use it for playing games (other services NVIDIA offers gives you access to Quadro and Tesla products for GPU compute workloads in the same way). For the open beta, users must sign up to a waiting list to be allowed on the service (possibly so that it doesn’t crash immediately), and beta access is limited to four hours per session. The only caveat to this arrangement is that you must also own the games you stream from GeForce Now, although NVIDIA keeps copies of the most popular games in-house, and updates them regularly.
In terms of hardware requirements, it isn’t much. All you need is a PC running Windows 7, a Core i3 processor with a clockspeed of 3.1GHz or better, and a DirectX 9.0 C compliant GPU or better, from the GeForce 600 series and up, or the Radeon HD3000 series and up. Intel’s HD 2000 integrated GPU is the baseline for those on integrated graphics. For Mac gamers (all eleven of you), you need to be running MacOS 10.10 or later, using hardware from 2008 or later. Internet requirements are pretty high, though, requiring a minimum of 25Mbps download speed on an Ethernet or 5.0GHz wireless network. That puts it out of reach for most gamers, in addition to needing the servers closer to you geographically to minimise lag.
Streaming services such as these are an interesting option for gamers who can’t, or don’t want to own and maintain their own dedicated gaming system, but the offering isn’t that good yet. NVIDIA’s plans for GeForce NOW for MacOS and PC strips it out into a multi-tier, per-hour service that you can’t subscribe to on a monthly basis, which reduces its effectiveness in the marketplace. When GeForce NOW was announced at CES 2017, NVIDIA’s price was $25 for 20 hours of access time. If you wanted to 100% complete The Witcher 3, including all its DLC, you’d need to pay for about 250 hours of access time, paying around $300 for that luxury. Chuck in Fallout 4, and you might as well be looking at getting yourself an Xbox One instead, which would save you money. Add in a third popular title that requires a mouse and keyboard, like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, and you’d be better off buying your own system for around $1000.
For casual gamers looking to not get too serious about joining the PC Master Race, this might become an easy way to do that without buying your own console, but it needs to get cheaper before that happens. NVIDIA’s beta opens today, and if you get on the list early enough you might be able to test this out soon.