Want to play high-end PC games, but don’t want to buy a high-end gaming PC? Last summer NVIDIA launched a beta of a service that essentially lets you play stream games over the internet from a remote server with the power of a GeForce GTX graphics cards. At the time the service was only available for Mac. Now it’s available for PC too.
NVIDIA GeForce NOW is free while in beta, but you’ll want a reasonably fast internet connection. You’ll also have to actually pay for the games you want to play. This isn’t a Netflix-for-games service. You’re essentially playing games on a virtual remote PC so that you can effectively use a cheap PC to play high-end games.
The service works on computers running Windows 7 or later with at least an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and support for DirectX 9. So you can’t necessarily use any cheap PC, but there are an awful lot of systems that match those specs, but which wouldn’t otherwise be able to play recent games.
In order to play games, you’ll need to link your digital store accounts to GeForce NOW. It works with Steam and Battle.net. And NVIDIA just added upport for Ubisoft’s Uplay.
NVIDIA says it can stream titles at up to 120 frames per second at 1080p resolutions. But depending on your internet connection there’s always a risk of glitches or lag. I suspect serious gamers will never be satisfied with this type of service. But more casual gamers might be.
We still don’t know how much the service will cost when it exits beta, and there are some limits during the beta: you can only play a game for up to 4 hours during a session, although you can start a new session after that time. There are no limits on how many games you can install though, since storage is unlimited.
GeForce NOW is available in the US and Europe at launch.
NVIDIA isn’t the only company offering a virtual gaming PC in the cloud anymore. A French startup called Blade recently started rolling out its Shadow game streaming service in the United States. But it’ not cheap. Prices range from $420 per year ($35 per month) to $50 per month for a no-commitment plan.
Oh, and one other thing to keep in mind: this is one of two completely different (but sort of related) services NVIDIA offers that are both called GeForce NOW.
The other is an $8 per month service that lets you stream PC games to an NVIDIA Shield device. That version of GeForce NOW is more like a Netflix-for-games service, with access to more than 60 games included with a subscription and the ability to pay to play several dozen others.