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Nvidia announces GeForce Now streaming service for PCs with pay-per-minute gaming

Nvidia’s GeForce Now service started life as GRID, a free beta service that could stream high-end PC games to Nvidia’s Shield mobile devices. In late 2015, the service was launched as GeForce Now, a Netflix-style subscription service for streaming games from the cloud. PCs were notably absent from GeForce Now, but at CES Nvidia has announced a new version of the service for PCs. The business model is much different, though. Instead of a Netflix-style all-you-can-eat, it’s more of a game hosting service.

Like GeForce Now on Shield, the idea here is that you’ve got a device that’s not powerful enough to play a game. Nvidia runs servers with tons of power, so you can run the game on that server and stream the video down while sending your control inputs up to the server. Based on my experience using GeForce Now on the Shield, this works better than you might expect. Lag was usually imperceptible compared with playing on a console or PC, although there was some occasional artifacting in the video stream.

GeForce Now on Shield is a subscription service. For $ 8 per month you get unlimited access to a library of slightly older PC games. Then you can buy newer games to play on GeForce Now. Many of them also come with codes for Steam or Origin so you can still play them even if you stop using GeForce Now. The PC version of GeForce Now will be billed based on how long you play and the type of hardware you want to use. You also have to provide your own games. 

GeForce Now will support game uploads from services like Steam and Origin. Your games live in the Nvidia cloud and run on servers using either a GTX 1060 or GTX 1080. Each minute you play the games you’ve uploaded on these systems costs you a certain number of credits. It’s two credits per minute for a GTX 1060 and four credits per minute if you want a more powerful GTX 1080 system. A block of 2,500 credits will run you $ 25. That means a almost 21 hours of gameplay on a GTX 1060 and about ten and a half hours on a GTX 1080.

If GeForce Now on a PC were your main source of gaming, I think it would be prohibitively expensive. Consider you’re buying the games, then you’re paying extra to play them on Nvidia’s servers. Something like The Witcher 3 could easily take 100 hours to play through, which would cost you at least $ 120 on a GTX 1060. This might make sense for some people if Nvidia has a mechanism to sync game saves with the connected service (such as Steam Cloud). Thus, you could play the same game mostly on a PC and save your credits for when you’re stuck without your gaming rig.

You can sign up for the free beta test on Nvidia’s site right now. That should start around March, and will be limited to the continental US at first. It will run on Windows and Mac. A 25Mbps download connection is needed to play the games. Shot in the dark here, but I don’t think people are going to like the pricing model. 

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