Honestly, I haven’t heard of GeForce Now until very recently, once Activision/Blizzard pulled their games from the platform following the service’s progression from a beta to release. On paper, the idea is sound; the customer can play the games they own, while using Nvidia virtual machines to enjoy the benefits of powerful hardware. Depending on the membership tier you choose, you can play for free for up to hour-long sessions after a short wait to begin, or you can pay for a membership which gives you priority access to the servers, along with the ability to play with RTX features enabled in specific games.
That last bit is perhaps the most enticing part, as some of the games like Metro Exodus or Deliver Us The Moon can be played using Nvidia’s service with said RTX features enabled. After all, while streaming can be useful to those with monster gaming rigs who want to game on the go on mobile devices or less-capable laptops, it’s also a way for folks who have a more modest gaming setup to enjoy all the bells and whistles without needing to shell out a fist-full of cash to upgrade their system.
Of course, the performance of the service is heavily dependent on the user’s connection speed, but that isn’t really what I started writing this to discuss.
The real question is, does Nvidia have the right to include games on their service without compensating the developers and/or publishers of those games?
Quite The Quandry
Here is where I feel personally torn. First, one of the major points is that Nvidia isn’t the one selling these games, or offering them up as part of the subscription service itself. This isn’t so much a “Netflix of games”, but rather a virtualized PC environment where you can play games you already own.
I was curious to see how this works, so I downloaded and installed the client on my computer to see for myself. Out of curiosity, I picked Metro Exodus, a game I do not own on Steam, to see if it would let me play it. Alas, upon signing in on Steam through GeForce Now, it only prompted me to purchase the game. Based on first appearances, I realize that the way I’m actually accessing my games is just by signing on to my Steam account on the virtual machine; I’m just remoting in. So no, Nvidia isn’t making it so I can play games without paying for them first, and it’s unclear if pirating the game would even work (I’m not going to try that though).
So my next course of action was to try something I do own, so I chose Insurgency: Sandstorm, which is a relatively demanding title compared to some of the others, and one of only a few I actually own. I was 12th in line behind other gamers, so I had a minor wait to gain access, but within a matter of minutes I was ready to go. After “installing” the game on the virtual machine, I was playing.
What makes this interesting, is that I never could play a game I hadn’t already purchased, and purchasing made through the service would’ve been done through the Steam or Epic Games stores themselves. I don’t believe that Nvidia is somehow collecting a cut from any purchases, nor do I see how they could do so in the first place. From what I can tell though, the developers and publishers already made their money from me, and Nvidia is just offering me another way to play my games.
Still, it’s a bit of a sticky situation, because game companies are beginning to follow in Activision/Blizzard’s footsteps and asking to have their games removed from the streaming service.
In essence, I’m borrowing a computer to play my games, so I’m left wondering why that’s wrong. In my mind, I see it no different than if I were to rent a PC to play something, and not even something I don’t own already; I’m still logging in using my Steam or Epic accounts to play my own games. In my mind, it isn’t like Bungie would get a cut of the sales from me purchasing a new computer to play Destiny 2, so I feel I must be missing something.
There are only two things I can think of that would influence a developer or publisher to want to have their game(s) pulled from GeForce Now:
- They want a cut
- They want to be asked first
The first reason is understandable, though a little weird considering that GeForce Now only allows users to play games they already own. The developer and publisher already got their money, so what makes them think that they deserve more from the customer’s wallet? The game dev didn’t help develop the infrastructure to make the game run on the service. They didn’t subsidize the cost of the service to help make it possible. This isn’t even the same as Netflix, or even YouTube. Nvidia isn’t selling games, they’re renting out virtual hardware.
The alternative of course is that game companies may just want to be asked if they’d be willing to add their games to the service, and while I can understand this sentiment, I don’t know why it’s so heinous if a customer installs a game they own on a virtual machine, when nobody else will be able to access that same game (barring some truly labyrinthine means to accomplish this).
I do understand that developers and publishers would want to be asked before their games became part of the GeForce Now service, but I don’t know how their games being available there is a bad thing. I really don’t believe that game companies should receive a portion of the subscription revenue for their customers playing on the service, any more than they should expect to receive a cut of every PS5 or Xbox Series X sold when they release.
Nvidia should have asked, but the game companies pulling their games off the service should closely examine why they’re doing so, because it’s difficult to come back to play once you’ve already taken your ball and gone home.
What are your thoughts on this? Should Nvidia be paying for licensing on games they don’t distribute? Do they need to ask before allowing customers to install their own games on a GeForce Now virtual machine?