By Stephen Levy
Since the early days of mobile gaming, starting from Game and Watch from Nintendo all the way up to today’s latest offerings, the longstanding variables of convenience, quality, and practicality always have and always will come into question. Last week Nvidia moved it’s GRID project, which provides cloud gaming services to those with SHIELD devices, out of it’s beta phase and moved it into a commercial launch and renamed it GeForce Now.
Those who are familiar with the concept of cloud gaming may remember OnLive, which closed on April 30th this year. OnLive offered many, if not all of the same services that GeForce Now brings to the batter’s plate. What makes this different from OnLive in terms of services? Not a whole lot. It’s what’s happening behind the scenes that really makes the difference. Nvidia primarily manufactures GPUs (Graphics Proccesor Unit), which for those who are entirely lost, processes graphics rendering and can in theory even be used to carry out hefty calculations (BitCoin miners used GPUs to assist with the decryption of BitCoin). Nvidia’s veteran status on the GPU market has everything to do with the success and sustainability of GeForce Now. The Shield Devices, which are used to stream from Nvidia’s server, contain the Kepler GPU chipset, which helps in the decoding of video streams and maintaining stability of said stream. When OnLive was still offering services, the devices you could stream gameplay to from their servers were a pretty sizeable selection, whether or not they had a dedicated GPU. Some may say that making this service available on proprietary devices is unsustainable, but when the stability factor of a 1080p 60 frame-per-second video stream comes into play, it’ll be clear as day as to why proprietary devices are the correct route to take.
As of the day of this post, Nvidia Offers 3 devices that can access its GeForce Now service, as well as provide you with in-home streaming (even on the go if you have the upload bandwidth) of games from your desktop gaming PC, if you happen to have one. One of your choices are the Android TV model, simply named SHIELD, which has the capability of streaming 4K movies and playing certain AAA titles optimized for Android locally with no need for a gaming PC. Some games offered for the SHIELD include Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Doom 3. Another option, which I personally use, is the SHIELD tablet. The tablet features a crisp 1920 x 1200 display capable of 60 frames per second and has a pretty impressive battery life when used for everyday non-gaming purposes. If you want to play it on your television, luck would have it that this features an HDMI-out port. Having the tablet option brings the need for a controller for it, which goes for $59.99 MSRP and is reminiscent to the Xbox Controller, except this has a trackpad on it. Last, but certainly not least, is the Shield Portable. It’s a controller, It’s a streaming device it runs on Android and it has a touchscreen. This is the option you want if you’re bad at keeping track of your controllers and the build of a handheld device appeals to you.
If you’re confident in the future of cloud gaming, this is your sign to make the commitment. If you’re unsure, Nvidia has made this a no-commitment proposition. Upon registering for an Nvidia account, Nvidia is offering three months of GeForce Now for the low price of nothing after you register your credit card and the service can be cancelled at any time. If you do decide that this is good for you, the service will continue to charge for 7.99 a month plus taxes for all-you-can-stream access to their library of games. At the risk of sounding like a TV salesman… “But wait, THERE’S MORE!”. There is definitely one very competitive detail in mind if you’re already a PC gamer. You can purchase Triple A titles from Nvidia directly, but why would you do that? Well, here’s why; When you purchase a game from Nvidia, not only do you get access to the game on their “Now” service, you also get a product key for the game you purchased so you can play it locally, no stream required. Many have described this new service as “The Netflix of video games”, and rightly so. With a competitive pricing module, a head-start on GPU technology, higher quality than offered by Playstation Now and a product key for a local copy of the games? This, in my tenured opinion of video games, is the next step towards the future.