CES 2017: Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming coming to PC and Mac

Rather than renting games, GeForce Now lets you rent servers.

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Among other gaming announcements, Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang caught the interest of PC gamers when he announced GeForce Now, a cloud program that lets users play games directly from distributors, for PC and Mac.

Rather than renting games, GeForce Now essentially gives users the ability to rent server time. GeForce Now runs off Nvidia's GRID servers, so users will purchase a game directly from known platforms like Steam and Origin, then play the game from the server while paying an hourly fee.

GeForce Now seems aimed at users who want to crank up all the bells and whistles in cutting-edge PC games but lack the hardware to do so. Of course, running games off lightning-fast servers like Nvidia GRID doesn't come cheap: 20 hours of play costs $25, on top of the cost of games.

Nvidia will roll out early access to GeForce Now for PC and Mac beginning in March—right around the time BioWare intends to release Mass Effect: Andromeda, which had a new gameplay trailer debut during Nvidia's CES keynote. 

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 4, 2017 8:05 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, CES 2017: Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming coming to PC and Mac

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      January 4, 2017 8:07 PM

      So you have to buy the game on the service and then pay to play it? Or can I use my Steam account?

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        January 4, 2017 8:39 PM

        That's a good question. I expect we'll get answers to those and other questions later this week as CES goes on, but I'd think you could use your own account info. You do have the purchase the games, so Now will need an account to tie the games to.

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        January 5, 2017 6:49 AM

        Was this article updated since you posted this?

        "Rather than renting games, GeForce Now essentially gives users the ability to rent server time. GeForce Now runs off Nvidia's GRID servers, so users will purchase a game directly from known platforms like Steam and Origin, then play the game from the server while paying an hourly fee."

        So yes, you'll use steam/origin to buy the game, then just pay for time to basically remote play the game when you are stuck with a basic laptop that couldn't run it otherwise.

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      January 4, 2017 10:07 PM

      This is a fail out of the box...just fricking stupid...

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        January 4, 2017 10:35 PM

        Not the first company that failed either. What was the name of that other company that tried exactly this just a couple years ago, then got bought out by another company?

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          January 4, 2017 11:11 PM

          Onlive?

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            January 5, 2017 6:41 AM

            ^^^ This is the one that went under. But didn't just go under, but did a layouff/restructuring thing that fucked their employees out of stock equity then reformed as a new company, also called OnLive, that then sold itself to itself. Or something. Anyway it was sold for like $4.8M, which is a fraction of the $1.8B it was supposedly worth at one point. A clusterfuck all the way down.

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          January 4, 2017 11:24 PM

          Gaikai?

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            January 5, 2017 6:38 AM

            ^^^ this is the one that Sony bought and it powers PlayStation Now. Which I don't think anyone really uses.

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              January 5, 2017 6:51 AM

              It also powers Remote Play which is awesome.

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              January 5, 2017 9:29 AM

              I'd love to know the actual numbers. I guess the only way we'll know how it's doing is if they cancel it, because they sure aren't shouting about the numbers particularly.

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          January 5, 2017 1:05 PM

          and yet there were all sorts of people here arguing that "it could work!" Just like they are with Nvidia's take in this very thread

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            January 5, 2017 1:12 PM

            99% of the naysayers were saying 'this is technically impossible and will not provide a palatable user experience' and they were wrong. By all accounts OnLive was perfectly serviceable for at least a decent chunk of big games. Whether you can successfully run a profitable business by renting out high end computing power that needs regular upgrades is a very different question. The economies of scale in this type of thing are far from the levels of something like Amazon's IaaS offerings. The capex for the hardware is much higher as you can't just use commodity boxes. And the ongoing costs are much higher since you can't just turn v3's cutting edge machines into v4's budget option to serve web requests.

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        January 5, 2017 5:15 AM

        It's not for me or most people around here, but it's really not that dumb. Their angle of selling it as a way to play games for people with shit computers is misguided, though.

        It's an online virtual PC with legit GPU power! They charge by the hour. Wouldn't that be great to tap into while on the road with an ultra slim laptop? Like he said, if a game has sync'd saves, you can just continue where you left off when you get home to your proper rig.

        That's where the benefit is. It fills in the gaps vs providing lower end users a solution. I probably will never use it but I definitely like it. They target time cards at ebgames and whatnot and they'll be rolling in it.

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          January 5, 2017 6:52 AM

          The thing is, we have threads here every day about how Steam Link only works well if you have your house wired for Ethernet. If one end is wireless then it's a crapshoot on how well it's going to work. And that's in the same house, probably less than a hundred feet from the router you're doing all of this through.

          Cloud services claim to do as well or better over the Internet, from an unknown distance away and who knows how many other factors between you and the server. I have a hard time believing this will ever work as well as people hope it will. When OnLive was around people would always say things like "It's impressive for what it is." They'd talk about it like you'd talk about a child's fridge drawing. Every review was a faint praise situation, one of those "if you ignore all the parts that suck it's pretty cool" sort of thing.

          All that being said, this is Nvidia. It's not some fly by night startup hoping to get bought out before they have to prove something. OnLive died and Gaikai was turned into PlayStation Now, which I never hear people talk about. Either Nvidia has figured out the real trick to make this work, or they'll be the final nail in the coffin. But Nvidia is not only the company making the best video cards on the market but they also come out but neat-but-misguided product like the Shield Portable. So who knows.

          But I think the real show stopper is going to be that people not only want this to be a thing but they want it to be structured and priced like other digital services. You pay a monthly fee to Spotify or Apple Music and you can listen to everything on it all you want. You pay a monthly fee to Netflix or Hulu and you can watch everything on it all you want. But none of these services so far have shown interest in letting you play everything on it all you want. PSNow wants you to buy the games individually. This Nvidia thing charges by the hour. I think a lot of people will skip it for these reasons alone, fair or not.

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            January 5, 2017 7:10 AM

            I'm going through this right now. Got a "600 MB" power-ethernett adapter to get my PC on wired and waiting for it to get here just to resolve this issue.

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            January 5, 2017 7:20 AM

            OnLive comparison is skin deep. That was a business designed to do one thing. Nvidia has its hands in so many pots and can take this risk without disaster. In fact, it's probably an excellent proving ground for their enterprise level hardware.

            I agree that there is no way to solve the latency issue for lower end connections. There will be compression and lag regardless of you choose a 1060 or 1080 GPU config. I'll bet that each GPU comes with a recommended up/down internet connection speed to ensure best performance.

            Hopefully they will release some pricing grids today.

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        January 5, 2017 6:43 AM

        It's not a product for people who post on gaming forums. That doesn't mean it's an instant fail - just that we're not the target audience.

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          January 5, 2017 7:04 AM

          The hourly rate thing is awful by any measure.

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            January 5, 2017 7:10 AM

            Yup, should be a monthly sub.

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            January 5, 2017 7:41 AM

            Seems like it's structured similar to a cyber cafe which tend to have much higher rates for gaming stuff.

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              January 5, 2017 9:23 AM

              Except you don't have to buy any games there

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                January 5, 2017 9:27 AM

                ... and their prices are quite a bit higher.

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            January 5, 2017 9:02 AM

            Reminds me of dialup vs broadband.

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            January 5, 2017 9:10 AM

            Yeah the pricing model is where it dies on the vine to me.

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        January 5, 2017 8:10 AM

        Something people are missing is that the GRID service that they built for GeForce Now is not new, they just only let you play pre-packaged games before and now they open it up to a full desktop.

        Their design is better than the fails of the past, they are pretty good at reducing latency with their servers being pretty close to most cities.

        Is it going to be a huge success? Fuck no, it will probably fail to capture most people and not even the target they mentioned. It is not a perfect solution, but it is going to appeal to a small market that really doesn't include anyone you probably know.

        This is a new thing they are doing that will make way more money than they were making with their existing GeForce Now service, which had far too many downsides.

        Now you get the ability to play the games you truly own, your save games will stay with you regardless of GeForce Now, and you can do this on a desktop computer which was not possible with GeForce Now before.

        So in summary, this is making their mostly useless service now actually useful, even if it is still not useful to everyone. The story shouldn't be "this is gonna fail" instead it should be "they made their service suck less and it is more useful than before"

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          January 5, 2017 9:33 AM

          I wonder if they have a broader strategy for low-latency massive parallel compute power distributed near major cities. Probably not, given how far off any actual uses are, and the high risk of this product meaning it likely won't exist in 5 years.

          But, It would be cool if it was actually a long-term vision for their deep learning tools or self-driving cars (e.g. <50-milisecond emergency responses that could fuse sensor data from nearby cars and draw on large amounts of computation in unmodelled/dangerous situations)

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        January 5, 2017 9:52 AM

        Eh... I got a Surface Pro recently. It's quite nice to draw on and do tablety, laptoppy type of things on, and it's very portable. It's not really capable of gaming, and the only things I have installed on it for gaming are the jackbox party packs, Diablo II and Fallout (the original).

        It can handle a little more than that, but I'm not crazy about the heat it generates when I'm playing something three dimensional.

        If they charged me 10/month to access my entire steam library while I was visiting my parents for a week at Christmas, it would make the trip a lot more tolerable. I tried the free trial on a shield tablet and it was a surprisingly smooth experience even on a not very good connection (in spite of constantly warning me that I needed faster/better signal).

        I'm not crazy about hourly pricing, although for something like this, although t's probably actually cheaper in the long run. I can't imagine I would do more than 3-5 hours of mobile gaming in an average month. I dislike the unpredictability of it though.

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      January 5, 2017 7:29 AM

      I think this stuff has a future, I've been working on setting up remote workstations for game artists, and it's awesome. Maintaining workstations and dev environments is a pain, especially for remote workers.

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      January 5, 2017 7:47 AM

      [deleted]

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        January 5, 2017 8:04 AM

        Regarding the FP performance, that decision seems to be more driven by their desire to have multiple product lines and keep the compute focused community from using their gamer line.

        In the past they haven't hobbled 16/32 performance on their gamer cards, and the result was the compute community buying up those and neglecting their workstation+ lines.

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          January 5, 2017 8:13 AM

          The serious compute community really shouldn't be using the gamer cards anyway if they care about result correctness. The compute cards have ECC RAM; the gamer cards don't.

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            January 5, 2017 8:20 AM

            Depends a lot on the application (plus other factors), but it's silly how often it's cheaper and faster to build multiple machines and address any possible accuracy concerns from bit errors with redundancy.

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      January 5, 2017 9:06 AM

      This feels like a precursor to a general purpose machine learning cloud to me.

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      January 5, 2017 10:34 AM

      Wait, so I'm seeing in comments elsewhere that if you want to run the game on a 1060 it's $25 for 20 hours. If you want to run it on a 1080 it's $25 for 10 hours?? Can anyone confirm that? That's hilarious if true.

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        January 5, 2017 12:29 PM

        I don't believe they have announced the specifics, but it was mentioned that there were different performance options and the $25 for 20 was the entry level. So what you said could very well be true.

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          January 5, 2017 12:37 PM

          Yikes.

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            January 5, 2017 12:42 PM

            Then again that's still 800 hours of gaming before you hit $2k which would build you a PC of similar power. Might make sense for light gamers if picture quality and latency are reasonable.

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      January 5, 2017 1:20 PM

      Not sure where you got the information where you can use your existing steam library ?

      It seems to be available only for the 50 games listed and you need to buy them on their store

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