At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2017, NVidia announced that a consumer beta-test of GeForce Now for PC users would begin in March 2017. What NVidia is not bringing to PC users overshadows what it is bringing, however.
In a January 2017 Mintel Report “Netflix-for-games: NVidia brings GeForce Now features to PCs,” states that users of the PC GeForce Now service get access to the side of NVidia’s cloud service that solves the technical problems of video game streaming: access to the computing power necessary to run the latest games via the cloud from NVidia’s servers. Users on PC will not have access to the GeForce Now library of games that Shield device users have access to however – instead users upload games they already own into the cloud that then run on NVidia’s servers. Moreover, PC users will pay for this by the minute, rather than as a monthly subscription as GeForce Now users with Shield devices do.
Although the service NVidia is bringing to PCs shares a name with its existing product, it is an entirely distinct proposition. The service being tested on PCs has more in common with NVidia’s enterprise-facing cloud computing service GRID, than its namesake on Shield devices. The features of GeForce being brought to PCs are not the ones that make the service valuable to consumers; unlimited access to the GeForce Now library – which includes new games as well as a back catalogue of titles.
During the demonstration at CES, NVidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said that the service was targeted at people who want to play video games occasionally, but do not play frequently enough to justify buying a gaming PC. However, Mintel’s data (see above) indicates that the audience for a cloud gaming service is core gamers who play regularly and own the latest consoles.
There has been some speculation that the upcoming Nintendo Switch, releasing on 3 March 2017, will be able to access the full NVidia GeForce service as NVidia worked with Nintendo on the development of the hardware and software development APIs, However this seems unlikely on the basis that NVidia will probably want to protect the unique value of its Shield range of devices by keeping GeForce Now’s library of streamable games exclusive to that platform, which would also explain its decision to withhold the library from PC users.
With Microsoft’s Project Scorpio due for release this year it seems especially unlikely the tech giant will attempt to transition to cloud gaming in the near future. The Xbox manufacturer would not want to de-value its new flagship console by developing a cloud gaming platform with the same proposition: high-performance gaming. A physical console for which users have to buy individual games is also unlikely to match a subscription based cloud gaming service in terms of value. So at this stage it appears that none of the three main players in the console gaming market – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – are likely to be motivated to push cloud gaming into the mainstream.