Cloud gaming is considered to be the new frontier in digital entertainment. But before we can truly have a “Netflix of gaming” services ecosystem, like any new frontier, terrain is going to be rugged, with paths untraveled. GeForce NOW is a game streaming service from NVIDIA that allows gamers to play their existing and future PC game library across a myriad of different device types, from phones to laptops with low-end graphics and NVIDIA’s SHIELD TV set top box.
It’s unique in that games and publisher stores just work on the service, with NVIDIA GPU-powered data centers handling the rendering workload. Anyone can install the GeForce NOW client software and sign-up for a free trial account to check it out. However, that simplicity and ease of use also quickly surfaces critical business decisions that need to be made in the game publisher community.
Lock And Load Before Launch
Today NVIDIA announced a few more “puts and takes” to the GeForce NOW service, as the company makes an earnest effort to lock down its game library before it transitions to commercial services in June, when it will start charging Founders subscribers a $4.99 per month fee. This June launch is a forcing function of sorts and as a result, additional game titles and publishers are coming off the service, while other publishers and titles are being added.
On the downside, Warner Bros., Xbox Game Studios, Codemasters and Klei Entertainment are leaving GeForce NOW. This means no Minecraft, Gears of War, Forza, Batman, Mortal Kombat, Dirt, Grid or F1 games, among others. While it might be tempting to jump to the conclusion that GeForce NOW is losing additional critical mass, there’s a lot more at play here. The reality is that this is all just par for the course as we traverse this new cloud gaming landscape.
On the upside, Ubisoft has pledged full support of GeForce NOW, announcing today that its entire series of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry games will be made available on the platform starting this week. Ubisoft is an interesting addition, not just because the publisher offers some of the most popular game titles on the market currently, but because it also has its own Uplay game store and subscription service that it needs to foster on any platform that the company supports.
“Ubisoft fully supports NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW with complete access to our PC games from the Ubisoft Store or any supported game stores,” noted Chris Early, senior vice president partnerships at Ubisoft. “We believe it’s a leading-edge service that gives current and new PC players a high-end experience with more choice in how and where they play their favorite games.”
Further, when you consider other huge publishers like Epic, Bungie, Bandai Namco and others have all stepped out in support, things look fairly strong for GeForce NOW, in terms of critical mass. In fact, NVIDIA is quick to point out that 30 of the 40 top most-played games on Valve’s Steam service are already available for streaming on GeForce NOW, from Fortnite and Destiny 2 to Rainbox Six Siege, Dota 2, CS:GO, PUBG and Rocket League. The company is also committing to new GeForce NOW releases to be announced every Thursday, with a big push through April and May as it approaches commercial launch of its Founders subscription service.
It’s Always Easy Going, Until The Suits Get Involved
So what’s all the consternation around some of these major game publishers leaving the service? After all, gamers are a passionate bunch and if their favorite game title goes away, it’s bound to kick up some dust. Simply put, it’s complicated because the “suits” inevitably have to get involved. With GeForce NOW, publishers and developers don’t have to recompile their PC game titles and commit resources to make them work like they do with other competitive cloud services like Google Stadia, for example.
The beauty of GeForce NOW is that PC games just work on the platform with little to no additional support. However, NVIDIA needs a simple written agreement with publishers before either party can commit to officially bringing a game library to the platform for commercial availability. NVIDIA isn’t charging publishers or game devs for access. Further, NVIDIA isn’t taking a cut of any in-game monetization revenue either, so it’s not a money thing, at the outset at least.
However, the reality is that some game publishers and developers in this new market opportunity haven’t settled on their cloud strategy yet. And if a publisher won’t sign on the dotted line, they’ll have to come off the service for now. NVIDIA is obviously going to work hard to bring as many publishers and game titles to the platform as possible of course, but corporate agreements just aren’t always cut and dry.
Where Do You Place Your Bets?
So there you have it. This is not some dramatic, earth-shattering industry insider mystery, rather NVIDIA and game pubs simply need to have inked agreements in place. Indeed, as NVIDIA approaches commercial service availability in June, there will continue to be additional puts and takes to GeForce NOW.
The important take-away here is that gamers will know exactly what is or is not on the service when NVIDIA starts collecting its $4.99 Founders fee for subscribers that want priority access, additional features and extend play time. And so, NVIDIA is going to continue to make efforts to lock down the GeForce NOW games library, with its claimed longer-term goal of bringing 1,500 additional games to the service beyond the hundreds that are already there.
Some folks will place their bets elsewhere in the cloud, but with GeForce NOW’s extremely low barrier to entry, in terms of game title compatibility and user experience, my money is on NVIDIA.