GeForce Now: Not ready for the Limelight . . . but the Future of Gaming?

One of the announcements to come out of CES 2017 was Nvidia’s new service called GeForce Now. The idea is certainly an interesting one: you’re essentially renting a PC from Nvidia to play your games. The service would allow customers to play their games on a machine with a GeForce 1060 or a GeForce 1080.

There’s certainly merit to the idea; one of the biggest being that you own the games you’re playing. One of downsides with services such as PlayStation Now or OnLive is that you are renting the games from the service and never own them. Likewise, for services like PlayStation Plus, if you lapse in your subscription, you lose access to your accumulated games. Unfortunately, it’s my belief that GeForce Now will never take off for another simple factor: cost. The service is currently set to charge $25 for about twenty hours worth of game time on a 1060 machine and about ten and a half hours on a 1080 PC. These prices are completely absurd, and I strongly doubt anyone will fork over the cash.

Someday, someone will get this right…

This is especially true for the GeForce 1060 PC. I can currently pick up a 1060 video card on Amazon for less than $200. So, why would I pay Nvidia $200 for the equivalent of two hundred hours worth of game time? Two hundred may seem like a lot, but it’s not for anyone other than a casual gamer, someone who only spends one to three hours a week gaming. Many notable games, such as Witcher 3, can easily take over ninety hours to experience all game play. Any multiplayer game, such as Rocket League or Defense of the Ancients (DotA), can easily be played for hundreds of hours over the course of several weeks as well.

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So, who is the target audience for this service? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s for people who don’t have a gaming laptop but travel a lot and want to experience the best graphics money can buy. If so, that strikes me as a bit of a niche market.

Yet, it’s hard to not look at GeForce Now as a portent of things to come. At the end of the day, this technology is only going to get cheaper and cheaper. What if the price point were more favorable? If the service was $5 or $10 for twenty hours with a 1080 equipped PC, I think the costs would be a lot more acceptable to consumers. It’s not hard to imagine a future where this has become the norm for computer users. Perhaps Nvidia could make the cost more tolerable by introducing a program where after a certain number of hours have been paid for, the actual video card is mailed to the customer?

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To keep things in perspective, overall PC sales have been dropping off for the past several years with no end in sight. Many people don’t want to deal with swapping updated parts or potentially getting viruses. It’s therefore not a stretch to imagine most people simply connecting to a remote PC on some server farm and getting their gaming, leisure, or work needs fulfilled this way.

It’s only a matter of time before cost and bandwidth availability reach the sweet spot of no return, but for now, GeForce Now will be an interesting test to see how much demand can be found for what may end up being a paradigm shift in PC usage.

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