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Nvidia GeForce Now game streaming service first impressions

Nvidia GeForce Now game streaming service first impressions

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I’m playing Blizzard’s Overwatch on macOS Catalina on a 13-inch MacBook Air from 2012. I’ve got the graphics cranked up as high as they can go, and I’m still getting 60 frames per second. And even though I’m playing on a relic from the halcyon days when you could find USB-A ports on a Mac, my team is winning—and I think it’s safe to say it’s largely because of me.

All of this isn’t happening because Mac gaming suddenly went from “sucky” to “super” overnight, and it sure as heck isn’t because Blizzard finally released a Mac port of its popular team shooter. Instead, I’m playing with a new Founder’s Edition account of Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service, which has at last made its way to the public after a couple of years in beta.

With only a few reservations, I love it. You’re never going to catch me saying it’s good enough to replace a gaming PC, but I’d say it’s about as close to that experience as you can get on a Mac, especially on one as old as this one. And I think it’s time to face the music: This is probably what the future of Mac gaming looks like. This is as good as it’s going to get. (Our sister site, PCWorld, has a news article on GeForce Now you can also check out.)

Up in the cloud

Before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s an explainer. Nvidia GeForce Now is a cloud game streaming service like Google’s Stadia, but one that’s infinitely friendlier to consumers. (Sadly, Stadia didn’t live up to the promise.) You don’t have to rebuy some games you probably already own on a PC, and it works with a number of storefronts you may already have accounts with, such as Steam, the Epic Games Store, and Blizzard’s You don’t even have to worry about your Mac being able to run these games, as Nvidia itself keeps them updated and powers all of them with its own celebrated graphics cards—which, as a reminder, haven’t been supported on Macs for years.

The only things you really need are an Nvidia account and an internet connection that’s capable of reaching at least 15Mbps. Unfortunately, in the Appleverse, GeForce Now is only available on the Mac. It may seem perfect for iOS and the Apple TV, but when I asked, an Nvidia representative said the company had “nothing to announce.” It’s not hard to believe that Apple itself may cause trouble in that regard, especially after the fiasco surrounding Valve’s Steam Link app in 2018 and 2019.

You don’t even have to pay for GeForce Now if you don’t want to, as the free version lets you use the service to play your games for up to an hour at a time, though you can hop right back into another session if you’re booted off. If you want to bump up to six hours with “priority” access to Nvidia’s servers (as well as Nvidia’s RTX ON technology for ray tracing), you’ll have to pay just $4.99 a month for the Founder’s Edition account. That’s the same price as an Apple Arcade subscription, less than Google Stadia’s $10 per month, and the kind of thing many of us might forget about. In this case, though, you’ll also get a 90-day free trial (which leads me to believe the subscription price might go up later).

rtx on metro exodus Nvidia

Ray tracing in Metro Exodus, which is supported in GeForce Now. 

But it’ll be hard for some players to forget about that six-hour session limit. Most normal people probably aren’t going to hit that. But I, er, admit I occasionally go over six hours without logging out when I’m playing Final Fantasy XIV on the weekends, so it could happen. Like with the free service, however, you can sign back in if you bump into the six hour session limit, so you aren’t barred from playing more once you hit that mark.

Also a minor bummer: GeForce Now doesn’t support all games on Steam, Epic, and similar storefronts, but it does support quite a few. They’re the games that are popular enough to warrant maintaining with such a setup. Aside from around 30 popular free-to-play games like Fortnite, many of the remaining 1,000 or so tend to be on the old side. I wasn’t able to find brand-new popular hits like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Control, or the PC port of Red Dead Redemption 2, but I was able to find many of my favorites like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and, of course, Overwatch. Considering that none of those games have come to the Mac, I call that a big win.

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