The recently fully launched Nvidia GeForce Now is a “bring your own” games streaming service, similar to Google Stadia. It doesn’t sell games directly, but instead allows you to stream PC games you already own via its servers. They may be games already in your Steam library or simply games you’ve purchased on the PC and have a valid account for. It also offers “free” games such as Fortnite or League of Legends.
It’s very much a halfway house between the walled garden of Stadia, which only allows you to play games bought from Google’s store, and the full Windows desktop of another rival streaming service, Shadow. You don’t get to see the Windows desktop on GeForce Now, and you can’t install what you like on it, but you don’t have to pay for games all over again as you do on Stadia. It also means the library of compatible games is far greater than Stadia’s, with over 400 listed on the GeForce Now site – although it should be noted that some games studios have forced Nvidia to remove their titles from the service and others may follow suit. The forced ejection of Civilization VI is a big blow, for example.
There are GeForce Now apps for Windows, Mac, Android and Nvidia’s niche Shield streaming device, with support for Chromebooks promised. The client itself is neatly organised, very much like Stadia’s simple shopfront, with users able to add games to their library or search for specific titles. If you’ve got a games controller plugged into your PC or laptop, it just works with GeForce Now – no fuss or driver installation needed.
GeForce Now has two tiers: a free service, which should really be thought of as a try-before-you-buy plan, as gaming sessions are limited to one hour and you may be forced to queue for available server space. The Founders tier is priced at a punchy £5 per month (until the end of the year, at least), which extends gaming sessions to six hours and adds in ray tracing (more lifelike light and shadow effects) for good measure.
GeForce Now can be quite fussy about playing over Wi-Fi. Although both Stadia and Shadow have sometimes suffered Wi-Fi glitches on my home network, GeForce Now continually gripes of a “spotty connection”, even when I’m in the same room as my router. Hook up to an Ethernet connection if you can, where the experience is almost flawlessly smooth.
In part, that’s because Nvidia has capped resolution at Full HD at 60 frames per second, which is poor in comparison to Stadia and Shadow’s 4K offerings. However, Nvidia tells us 4K support is on the roadmap.
Nvidia GeForce Now or Google Stadia?
So, which streaming service should you plump for: Nvidia GeForce Now or Google Stadia? Stadia’s performance is smoother in my experience and the ability to play on any device simply by entering a web address in the Chrome browser is wonderfully simple. But there’s no getting away from it, Stadia is relatively expensive: £8.99 per month for a Pro subscription, £119 if you want the controller/Chromecast combo to make it playable on a TV, and games cost extra on top of that (you do get some games thrown in every month, mind).
GeForce Now is definitely the cheaper option if you’ve already got a decent library of PC games that are compatible with the service. But you’ll either need a wired connection or to be close to your Wi-Fi router to avoid the horrible blips and dropouts that can mar a gaming session.
If you put a gun to my head, I’d take Stadia over GeForce Now, but it’s a marginal call.
Nvidia GeForce Now
Product Name: Nvidia GeForce Now
Product Description: A games streaming service that allows you to play the latest 3D games on practically any PC, Mac or mobile device
Offer price: Free or £5 per month for premium
Value for money
A great value streaming service, especially if you already have a library of paid-for PC titles
- You can try it out for free
- Huge games library
- Works on a wide range of devices
- Performance patchy over Wi-Fi
- Games being removed from service