The Great Streaming Wars of 2020 are continuing to heat up as today Nvidia has announced that their GeForce Now streaming service has officially arrived on iOS in beta form via a new progressive web app. This was rumored to happen earlier this month according to a report from the BBC and as covered by our sister site Macrumors, and today’s announcement from Nvidia makes it official. To try it out for yourself, you simply visit play.geforcenow.com from your iOS device and follow the prompts to add that page as a bookmark to your device’s home screen. From then on you’ll access GeForce Now by clicking that bookmark icon and for all intents and purposes the entire experience behaves pretty much like a native app would. It’s really impressive.
Since I wasn’t currently a GeForce Now subscriber, I decided to use this opportunity to sign up on my iPhone and see what the process is like. The base service is free for anyone and lets you stream games that you already own though other 3rd party digital storefronts, like Steam or the Epic Games Store. The restrictions for being a free user are you don’t get any of Nvidia’s fancy visual effects like Ray Tracing or DLSS while you play, and you’re also limited to just one hour sessions at a time. For $4.99 per month or $25 for a 6 month chunk, you’ll get support for those fancy visual effects when you’re playing, no more one hour session limit, and you’ll also get priority access when queueing up your game.
For my purposes the free tier works fine for just checking out how GeForce Now works, and after a somewhat clunky experience with signing up and signing into my Nvidia account, things worked pretty well. About on par with my experience using the Stadium app to play Google Stadia. There are some hiccups and I received a “spotty connection" warning more than once, which is strange because my home internet gets anywhere between 500-1000 Mpbs down and 300-500 Mbps up on average. Still, it was mostly acceptable for just casually playing single-player, non-competitive games. I tried out Ghostrunner and No Man’s Sky from my Steam library, Maneater from my Epic Games library, and Watchdog Legions from my Ubisoft library. Performance was about equal for all and, like I mentioned, acceptable for causal play, though the hiccups definitely did interfere on occasion when trying to make some split-second jumps in Ghostrunner.
Speaking of Google Stadia, their service turned one year old today and to celebrate they’ve also announced that beta testing of iOS device support will be rolling out “several weeks from now" according to Polygon. Also, starting today Destiny 2 will be free to play on Stadia, as it has been for a while now on all other platforms, so if you wanted to try out Stadia through the Stadium app but don’t own any games on that service, that’s one way to do it. However, I far, FAR prefer the method GeForce Now uses that takes advantage of games you already own. It is incredibly unlikely that I’d want to re-purchase a game through Stadia that I already own on another digital platform, and it’s also unlikely I’d want to buy a game I don’t already own on Stadia because then it’s tied to Stadia forever and I’m SOL if Google ever decides to up and nix the service. Technically that’s a problem with any digital storefront, but I highly doubt Steam will be going anywhere anytime soon.
At any rate, with Apple not allowing native apps for game streaming services onto the App Store, going the way of the web app is the only viable option right now for the likes of Nvidia, Google, Microsoft, and future player Amazon with their upcoming Luna service. So far I’ve been impressed with how the web app experience has been, and the thought of having the vast library of Xbox Game Pass games as well as my own library of PC games that are supported through GeForce Now available on my iOS device is almost too much for me to handle.
It’s still early days for game streaming, but this feels like the way of the future, and it will be funny if Apple rejecting these types of services will simply lead to iOS users having access to them anyway while those companies avoid having to give Apple their 30% cut of everything. Also worth noting is that in Nvidia’s announcement of GeForce Now iOS support today, they also mention that they’re working with Epic Games to bring a touch-eneabled version of Fortnite to the service soon, also confirming rumors from that BBC report a couple of weeks ago. That could be another “Nanny nanny!" in the face of Apple from the game streaming companies, specifically Epic.
Whatever the outcomes may be, the game streaming space on mobile remains incredibly interesting, and I’d urge any iOS device users who own games on something like Steam and have an iOS compatible controller to visit play.geforcenow.com and try out the free tier of GeForce Now for themselves as it’s a pretty wild experience playing so many modern AAA games on your iOS device.