Nvidia is expanding its GeForce NOW streaming service with the power of its latest 30-series GPUs—the 3080, to be precise. Not only does that mean better performance, but it also unlocks RTX enhancements like ray tracing to anyone with a good enough internet connection. But at a very steep price.
The new RTX-enabled tier of GeForce NOW costs roughly $200 a year, but that will be in increments of $99.00 every six months. There’s no other option for the new RTX tier, but hopefully, that’s just because it’s new, and we’ll see some form of a monthly plan like the other tiers of GeForce NOW eventually. Because for now, Nvidia’s expecting you to be pretty invested even to try it out.
Games don’t come with that subscription either. You don’t purchase games through GeForce NOW at all, it taps into your Steam and Epic Games Store accounts to bring the games you’ve already bought from those storefronts to the cloud. At least, the ones Nvidia’s approved/managed to get licensed for the service. For example, any Xbox Studios games are a no show, likely because Microsoft is also developing a game streaming platform—I hope you weren’t looking forward to playing the new Halo or Forza on this.
On top of that, there aren’t that many games supported by the service that are RTX-enabled. It’s 26 according to the GeForce NOW client, but I’d make the argument that there’s at least a little bit of filler there looking at the library considering one of them is a poker game. If you like poker, that’s cool, but it’s not exactly pushing the boundaries of graphical fidelity.
I don’t mean to make this sound bad right off the bat, but rather I want you to know what you’re in for financially before even getting started. You’ll need to buy your games (although Nvidia did recently announce that RTX-tier subscribers would get a free copy of the Crysis: Remastered trilogy), pay the high subscription price, and have a device to play it on. Not that the last one is hard, though, GeForce NOW is available on your PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and Nvidia Shield, so you have plenty of options. Regardless, you need to put a lot of money in to get anything out of this service.
If you’re here to know whether or not the service is worth it, that’s a hard thing to say except for a particular type of person. If you want to see how the streaming runs, though, well then, let’s jump in.
Much of what I’m about to talk about will depend a lot on where you live, which is unfortunately true of any game streaming. GeForce NOW itself and the new 3080 streaming version is available in many countries, but you need a pretty good internet connection for it to work well. Fortunately, this is easy to test; install the GeForce NOW client and run the connection test in the settings menu. It’ll tell you how much latency you can expect, what server is closest to you, and whether or not that server offers 3080 streaming. Pretty smooth.
Right off the bat, I wanted to test out Control. Now, Control isn’t the fanciest game around, but it’s a good-looking game, and more importantly, it has fantastic support for ray tracing. I could access my Epic Games cloud save no problem, and jumping into the game with the new visuals was great. Ray tracing worked like a charm, I was able to run the game at max settings, and I never experienced a frame drop in my time of playing. The latency wasn’t very noticeable, but while Control is an action game, it isn’t very demanding when it comes to reaction times.
However, it let the RTX mode show off a bit, and I was impressed by the results. I expected some graphical hijinks to occur just due to the 3080 streaming being so new, but things are very smooth. As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t many games with RTX-enabled, so after I got my fill here, I also wanted to try some more demanding on the latency side of things.
Furi is a fast-paced boss rush game where every second counts, and not surprisingly, GeForce NOW does not cope well with it regardless of the new GPU. While delayed inputs in Control is a minor thing that doesn’t matter, Furi’s twitchy action gameplay made the discrepancy very clear, and performance (both frame rate and latency) suffered greatly. I’m not saying it would be impossible to adjust, but it’s far from ideal.
This service, and all game streaming services for that matter, can’t handle games like this. Any game that requires precise inputs, whether it’s a competitive online game or an intense single-player one, just isn’t going to work well. The tech isn’t there, and while that’s fine, I still get annoyed that these games are placed next to all the other games on the service that perform much better.
This is more about how GeForce NOW is presented to you than the actual performance, but I think it should be made more clear that games like Furi aren’t a good fit. If you were to subscribe to GeForce NOW and you don’t have an extensive collection of PC games already purchased, the only options you would have are free-to-play games—many of which are online games that require quick reaction times.
An unfortunate combo, and it goes to show that while the tech behind GeForce NOW is great, what it’s missing is a game library. Supporting more games that can use the fancy new RTX streaming will also be crucial in the future.
Despite wrapping up on a sour note, the new 3080 streaming is, without a doubt, impressive. The performance and visuals you get are incredible, and it helps breathe new life into your existing PC game collection if your computer doesn’t have the latest hardware. And perhaps that is GeForce NOW RTX’s greatest use case: someone who’s into PC gaming enough to want to buy a 3080, or any of the new 30-series cards for that matter, but can’t due to the ongoing stock issues.
The service gives you a taste of those new cards, albeit at a premium and with the general downsides that any game streaming platform has. Honestly, $99 every six months isn’t a small sum for a new way to play games you already own, but it is significantly more expensive than services like Google Stadia (which costs $9.99 a month and includes a library of games). And without a free trial or even the option to only pay for one month of the service, you have to be very committed to this.
If you’ve written off game streaming for now due to latency issues, or you just flat-out don’t have a good internet connection for it, this isn’t going to change your mind. But if it interests you, and you’re willing to foot the bill for six months, then GeForce NOW RTX is one of the best options for game streaming right now as far as performance goes. Just make sure you have enough PC games between Steam and Epic games that will benefit from it.
For everyone else, though, this is nothing more than an exciting step for game streaming that will hopefully get better as time goes on. The user experience is already pretty solid, so with a more accessible price, this could become a great option in the coming years. GeForce NOW’s RTX tier has won the streaming war as far as visuals go; now, it just needs a more competitive price.
Nvidia GeForce NOW
Nvidia’s newest streaming efforts bring amazing visuals, but you’ll need to cough up a lot for them.