As we approach the launch of a new GPU cycle, the usual chatter about GPU prices has begun to tip up, with various rumors about how AMD and Nvidia will approach their own launches. There are signs that Nvidia may leverage its new Ampere GPUs in its GeForce Now service, potentially making the benefits of these cards available to gamers without requiring them to pay for an upgrade.
Cloud gaming/streaming services have existed for years now, but we haven’t seen upgraded hardware pushed as a major selling point, mostly because these services haven’t existed long enough to really need it. Nvidia, however, is well aware of the idea and is contemplating how it can use the idea to its own best advantage. In this regard, the fact that the company builds its own GPUs is a tremendous strength.
“We want GeForce Now to be an opportunity for gamers to experience the latest gaming technology from Nvidia.” Andrew Fear, Sr. product manager, GeForce Now, told PCGamer. “Therefore, you can expect to see Ampere on GeForce Now in time.”
Nvidia transitioned gamers from Pascal to Turing already, but I suspect that was likely to be a less impactful transition for two reasons. First, GeForce Now was itself much smaller than it is today and still in beta, with a limited number of ray tracing titles in the first place. With Ampere and AMD’s RDNA2 both debuting this year, we can expect to start seeing wider ray tracing uptake.
The advantage of potentially testing RTX Ampere via a service like GeForce Now for gamers who are still back on older GPUs is significant, especially with a new feature like ray tracing still in early deployment. The cost of GeForce Now is low, at $5 a month, and offers enthusiasts a chance to preview the upgrades they’d get by upgrading cards rather than paying top dollar to find out or trying to estimate improvements based on YouTube video or screenshots. There’s nothing stopping AMD from trying something similar, but Stadia seems an unlikely partner for the attempt given everything wrong with Google’s streaming service.
The big question, of course, is latency and whether your PC can connect smoothly to Nvidia’s servers to make good use of GeForce Now in the first place. But that’s going to be true whether NV upgrades to Ampere or not. For those who live in areas with good internet service, $5 per month to test drive Ampere as opposed to dropping hundreds of dollars on a new card could be a prudent way to try out the improvements of the next generation without committing to actually buying them. Pascal owners who skipped Turing are more likely to be in the market for an upgrade this fall. If your home internet can handle the latency, GeForce Now might be a good way to preview the upgrade in the future.
Nvidia’s comments do suggest they’ll prioritize channel deployments first, but that makes sense as well. Cloud gaming is still a very new idea and gamers are likely to be sensitive to being shoved off on to an online-only service. $60 per year instead of an $800-$1,200 purchase is a pretty solid deal given that most people don’t keep GPUs a decade, but the optics could still be bad. I’ll be curious to see if we start seeing more gamers subscribe to cloud gaming services even temporarily as a way of eyeballing new improvements before they pull the trigger on new cards. Even if you fully intended to stay a local gamer, using the cloud as a try-before-you-buy option is scarcely a bad idea.