NVIDIA’s game streaming service, GeForce NOW, had a public launch last week after years of beta testing. It’s pretty neat. But the service is immediately facing a setback: Activision Blizzard, publisher of giant franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, is withdrawing its support. Games playable on GeForce NOW last week are gone.
NVIDIA made the announcement on its support forum, stating only that they were complying with a request from Activision Blizzard. This is an odd development since the publisher’s games have been a part of the GeForce NOW/GRID beta for literally years—it makes it look like someone at the company had forgotten they were a part of the testing, and suddenly called off support for the platform.
This is a bit of a blow for NVIDIA. GeForce NOW’s biggest advantage over competitors like Stadia is that it supports the PC games you already own on multiple storefronts. Blizzard’s Battle.net launcher is the hub for games with huge and passionate playerbases, like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Diablo. Activision’s games aren’t quite so beloved, but they’re still one of the biggest names in publishing, with the Call of Duty franchise being its heavy-hitter and occasional high-profile one-offs like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice earning major acclaim.
Why Activision Blizzard chose to withdraw support isn’t clear. The easiest answer is that they’re hoping to do a streaming service of their own, but there’s been no indication of that. Some users are speculating that a closer relationship with Google (Activision Blizzard recently shifted from Twitch to YouTube for all esports streaming) indicates upcoming support for Stadia. That’s possible, but again, we’ve seen no concrete evidence that it’s what’s actually happening.
Game streaming has a lot in common with video streaming services, from a business perspective. And now NVIDIA’s dealing with one of the most common customer complaints about those services: unpredictable library shifts. Managing an extensive, dependable library of popular games is going to be one of the biggest challenges as the streaming industry matures…but then, managing a competitive library was always part of a successful gaming platform. Just ask SEGA and Atari.