Today Nvidia launched its GeForce Now cloud gaming service on iOS in beta. Due to App Store’s restrictions on cloud gaming services, it will be delivered as a web app though the Safari browser. GeForce Now is a ‘PC in the cloud’ service, which allows users who already own games on Steam or Epic Games Store to play them on less capable devices. This is different to ‘cloud gaming content’ services such as PlayStation Now and Google Stadia, which offers a library of games which users access as part of the subscription, or can purchase.
GeForce Now can be accessed for free (limited to one-hour sessions) or for $5 a month, which offers priority access to servers, extended session length and RTX On feature for compatible games. It is available in 71 countries around the world, supported by its own data centres or by telco partners. Windows PCs, macOS, Android, Chromebooks and Shield TV devices are currently supported, with plans to bring the service via Chrome browser in 2021. GeForce Now boasts more than 5 million members, with over 15 million hours being streamed every month. Its users can access 75 free-to-play games and over 750 games via Steam, Epic Games Store and soon GoG.
Fortnite is coming back to iOS… soon
An intriguing aspect of this Nvidia’s announcement is that Fortnite fans will be able to access the game via GeForce Now via Safari, but its date of availability hasn’t yet been revealed. Nvidia has attributed this delay to the work it is doing on creating a touch-friendly version of Fortnite. This, of course, comes at a contentious time when Apple and Epic Games are locked in a bitter lawsuit, which followed the banning of Fortnite from the App Store. GeForce Now will serve as an official workaround for iOS users, but I believe that a reaction from Apple is imminent, which could possibly lead to blocking or diminishing the quality of the service on Safari.
GeForce Now will bring high-end gaming to more people, but cloud PC services will remain niche over the next five years
There is a growing interest in flagship PC game titles, but a large proportion of the engaged games community does not have access to powerful hardware to run those games locally. PC in the cloud can democratize premium PC gaming: instead of a large upfront hardware investment, these services can be positioned as a way to spread out the cost of PC gaming, cut down on the system maintenance time and offer instant games/software updates.
Revenue generated from Cloud PC subscriptions (includes some rentals revenue) will grow from $125 million in 2020 to $899 million in 2025 at a CAGR of 48%.
However, several big factors will limit the appeal and uptake of cloud PC services such as GeForce Now beyond PC gaming enthusiasts. There is a higher barrier to entry than cloud gaming content services such as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate; the requirement to purchase games separately on other platform such as Steam and Epic Games stores will put off more casual users. The availability of free-to-play games mitigates this somewhat, but the requirement to connect to other games services leads to a disjointed user experience. Furthermore, popular free-to-play titles such as Among Us and Genshin Impact are increasingly cross-platform, meaning gamers can already use their smartphones to play with friends who are using PC or console.
Some major game publishers remain apprehensive about the cloud PC platform, particularly as they have growing platform ambitions of their own. This was evidenced by 2K, Activision Blizzard, and Bethesda pulling games from Nvidia GeForce Now service in 2020. Given the power-intensive nature of running powerful PCs in the cloud, there are questions around scalability and it is not yet clear if it’s possible to profitably deliver current services to millions of concurrent users. Despite these challenges, Omdia believes the cloud gaming category is set to play a key role in the future of video games.