Cloud gaming is regularly touted as the next frontier for gaming, but over the last few months cloud gaming services have run into nothing but trouble. Google’s Stadia has failed to impress, PlayStation Now still isn’t available in Australia, and Nvidia’s own cloud service has run into all sorts of problems. Nvidia’s GeForce Now has been beset by publishers and developers pulling their games from the service, including Bethesda, 2K, Activision Blizzard, Square Enix and Capcom. SEGA has now followed suit, pulling some of their biggest titles.
SEGA’s move comes just before May 31, when Nvidia plans to transition GeForce Now from an opt-out to an opt-in service.
“GeForce NOW is an extension of the PC ecosystem,” Nvidia’s Phil Eisler said in a blog post. “There is no cost for developers — games just run without difficult porting requirements — helping them reach millions of players who don’t have game-ready PCs.”
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The change means developers will at least know ahead of time whether their games will be accessible on GeForce Now, something that wasn’t the case a couple of months ago when it launched. Raphael van Lierop, the creator of The Long Dark, complained at the time that Nvidia didn’t ask developers’ permission before adding his game to the platform.
Sorry to those who are disappointed you can no longer play #thelongdark on GeForce Now. Nvidia didn't ask for our permission to put the game on the platform so we asked them to remove it. Please take your complaints to them, not us. Devs should control where their games exist.
— Raphael van Lierop (@RaphLife) March 1, 2020
They weren’t the only ones surprised. Matt Makes Games, the developers of Celeste, didn’t know their game was accessible on GeForce Now until it launched, Vice reported. The same was true for FTL and Into The Breach, with developers Subset Games unaware until they were contacted by the media.
From Nvidia’s perspective, there was no reason these games shouldn’t be available. GeForce Now, unlike Google Stadia or PlayStation Now, is simply streaming games that users already have access to. It accesses your existing Epic or Steam accounts, and users are simply paying for the ability to have games from those accounts streamed through Nvidia’s hardware and data centres. (The data centre issue is a reason why GeForce Now hasn’t been accessible in Australia, although the company is investigating workarounds with local ISPs.)
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Still, many major publishers have been pretty adamant about not supporting GeForce Now. According to the latest list posted on the GeForce website, SEGA is the latest to join the list. Yakuza 0, Football Manager 2018/2019/Touch 2018, Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces, Endless Space 2, Shenmue 1 & 2, Total War: Three Kingdoms and Vanquish will all leave GeForce Now after May 31, although some SEGA titles will remain, like Shenmue 3.
The move comes four years after Nvidia and SEGA struck an agreement to bring some of its titles to GeForce Now. The first game added was Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, with Alpha Protocol, Sonic CD and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine following afterwards. None of those games were listed on GeForce Now at the time of writing, and Nvidia’s blogpost didn’t note that any of those games would be leaving the platform after May 31.
GeForce Now still has a huge amount of support from smaller publishers and individual studios, mind you. Riot Games, Kalypso Media Group, Larian Studios, Starbreeze, THQ Studios, Humble Bundle, CD Projekt Red, Tencent, Team Cherry, DotEmu, Tripwire Interactive, Night Dive Studios, NIS America, Focus Home, Frontier Developments, Wargaming, and Paradox Interactive are just some of the names who have allowed their games to remain on the service.
Some publishers have also allowed their games to remain on a case-by-case basis. If you’re interested, the full list of games remaining after May 31 can be found here.
What’s interesting about the GeForce Now saga is the battle behind the scenes. On one hand, you have industry heavyweights like Epic’s Tim Sweeney praising the service as developer-friendly and a step forward for the industry. “Cloud streaming services will also be key players in ending the iOS and Google Play payment monopolies and their 30% taxes,” Sweeney wrote in March.
Just waiting till later this year when Google is lobbying against Apple for blocking Stadia from iOS, while Google blocks GeForce NOW, xCloud, and Fortnite from Google Play, and this whole rotten structure begins collapsing in on itself.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 7, 2020
On the other hand, publishers and developers are also naturally wary about another company building a subscription model relying on access to their games without paying royalties or licenses. Users have already paid for access to the game, but that’s a different kettle of fish from Nvidia creating a new ecosystem around that access without the express agreement of the publisher or original creator.
Still, Nvidia’s move at least creates more of a formal agreement process. Over 200 publishers have opted in, according to the blog post. Many are the publishers and studios that don’t have access to the scale or infrastructure necessary to roll out their own cloud gaming solution, although some major publishers have given their support, including EA, Valve and Ubisoft. All three publisher have a cloud gaming service of their own, or are in the process of developing or facilitating one.
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As 5G continues to roll out, and cloud gaming becomes less of a nice idea and more of a reality in territories like Australia, the backroom debates on cloud gaming and its business model will intensify. For now, Nvidia’s GeForce Now is still in a good position: it’s not asking users to pay twice to access their content, unlike Google Stadia. And by establishing an opt-in service, gamers will at least have some kind of assurance around what they can and can’t play on the platform.
And as an added bonus, Nvidia’s move has already won over some critics. After the announcement, The Long Dark creator Raphael van Lierop said his game would be playable on GeForce Now again. “This means developers now fully control whether or not their games appear on the platform. I’m thrilled to see NVIDIA move to this model as it’s best for everyone — for players, for the platform, and for the developers who create the games you love,” van Lierop said.
“I applaud NVIDIA for embracing this opt-in approach, and for their support of independent creators like Hinterland. I also support any developers who choose, for their own reasons, to withhold their games from any platform, and I hope you will respect their decisions to do so as well. Developer choice is at the heart of a strong independent games industry.”