Testing GeForce NOW
Geforce NOW is a cloud streaming service from graphics card giant NVidia. It allows you to play your own games (via Steam / EA etc) on one of their powerful cloud GPUs, and is painted as an affordable way to play games that would otherwise require a powerful gaming PC. Theoretically, it allows you to play on any device that can handle a high-resolution video stream.
The only ‘gaming’ machines in our house are a PS4 and a couple of Nintendo Switches. Our PCs are work or development machines, and none of them particularly well-specced – but we don’t play games on them, so that’s fine. I have never played a AAA title on a high-end gaming PC before.
I subscribed to GeForce NOW with low expectations, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it is all working. Connecting to my games was straightforward, and I can play at high settings with no noticeable latency. I’ve put 6 or 7 hours on it so far, and with the exception of the improved graphics I genuinely can’t tell that I’m not actually playing on my local machine.
For a service like this, your connection speed is a potential bottleneck. I’ve got a 200meg line coming in, and everything is connected by ethernet or 5G wireless. I didn’t expect that my network connection would cause me any problems, and it didn’t.
It’s once in a blue moon that there is a game that I really want to play. Is it worth me shelling out £400 on a PS5, or a similar amount up-speccing my PC for that? GeForce NOW works out at £60 a year, which is incredibly good value. For people that have a good internet connection, this seems like a really good alternative.
I have had issues getting on to the service at peak times. Reddit suggests that this is a recent issue, ostensibly because everyone wants to play Cyberpunk 2077. But when you want to play a game, you just want to play – not wait half and hour for a slot. It’s not a big deal to me. More dedicated gamers might feel differently.
There are some alternatives that are worth a mention if you are thinking of giving cloud gaming a go:
Stadia is free if you are happy to play at 1080p, and works on pretty much any internet connected device you own; or you can pay £8.99 a month for 4K HDR gameplay, surround sound and a couple of free games a month. The downside is that you have to buy your games from Stadia, and they are tied to the service – they aren’t yours to keep.
Shadow PC is the service that looks most interesting to me. They’ll rent you exclusive use of a powerful gaming PC in a data center, which you can use to stream the games you already own – or do anything else that you could do with a full PC. It’s more expensive, and they’re sold out until the middle of next year.