Understanding the Nvidia GeForce Controversy: Who’s Out, Who’s In?

Nvidia’s new GeForce Now streaming service has been a frequent topic in the news as of late. The platform is now a source of controversy as several major publishers, including Xbox Game Studios, Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and more, have chosen to pull their titles from its library.

This in-depth look at the issue will cover why these publishers may have come to their decisions, and what this means for Nvidia’s future.

What is GeForce Now?

There has been a lot of confusion regarding exactly what Nvidia’s new service is and does. Unlike Steam, the Epic Games Store, or other PC-based services, GeForce Now is not used for the purchase of games. You must already own a copy to use it with GeForce.

What it does provide is a high-performance, cloud-enabled system on which to play and stream your games. Some reviewers have even described it as the modern-day equivalent of renting a computer from an outside source. However, spokespeople for Nvidia have more accurately explained the complex process required to launch their platform.

GeForce Now also offers many unique options to make your gaming experience as crisp, clean, and smooth as possible. In particular, it features RTX raytracing, a visual technique that allows for the creation of much more realistic light, shadows, weather effects, and more.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? At first, it can be difficult to see where the controversy arises.

Developers are Opting Out

The first gaming companies to remove their titles from the GeForce library were Activision Blizzard, 2k Games, and Bethesda. The removal announcements were made as early as February, with the publishers declining to provide a reason for their decision. Speculation regarding possible causes for this decision has run rampant in the following months.

A few days ago, Xbox Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Codemasters, and Klei Entertainment also announced that their titles would be pulled from GeForce Now. Losses include Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the entire Batman: Arkham series and indie favorite Don’t Starve. This undoubtedly represents a significant hit to the library of games available to stream via Nvidia’s service.

Multiple Possible Reasons

What could be behind these major developers’ decisions? One speculated the idea is that GeForce Now is no longer in free beta. While a free version exists, it limits players to 1-hour gaming sessions at a time and potentially forces them to wait in lengthy queues for space to free up. Gamers can pay $5/month for a Founder Tier membership, which grants them access to longer play sessions and fewer restrictions. Publishers may be unhappy that they are not receiving a cut of this subscription.

Another potential issue is the question of licensing and rights. On the surface, Nvidia GeForce Now doesn’t seem like it incurs any rights violations — it appears similar to only playing your games on someone else’s PC. However, some developers specifically include bans on cloud streaming in their end-user license agreements (EULA), which would put them in direct conflict with Nvidia’s purposes.

There’s also the possibility, hinted at by Raphael van Lierop, developer of indie title The Long Dark, that Nvidia was simply adding games to its library without seeking permission or confirmation from the publishers. It’s an “opt-out” situation rather than an “opt-in.” Van Lierop individually felt that Nvidia did not have his consent to use the title, and demanded that it be pulled. GeForce Now’s forgoing of individual licensing agreements with publishers could be a reason for many titles’ removal.

Nvidia Remains Hopeful

In response to Xbox and Warner Bros.’ actions, Nvidia released a post on their official blog on April 20. In this post, the company stated that they are still extremely confident about the success of GeForce Now and their ability to move forward with the service.

Blog author Phil Eisler chose not to focus on the removals, instead highlighting publishers who are continuing to cooperate with GeForce. In particular, Ubisoft recently announced that the entire Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises would be available for streaming, in addition to popular title Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Other companies vocally supporting GeForce Now include Bandai Namco, Epic, and CD Projekt RED. They have officially announced that their upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077 will be compatible with the service from the day of its release.

Regarding the decisions made by Xbox, Bethesda, and others, Eisler writes, “While some [developers] are still evaluating their cloud strategy, most are incredibly supportive.” The post mentions that the finalized version of the GeForce Now library is planned to contain over 1500 games.

Nvidia also seems to retain hope that the removed games might be returned to their service in the future. Eisler ends the post with an extremely optimistic prediction, “Over time, more developers who share our vision to expand PC gaming for everyone will join us.”

For now, the Xbox Studios, Warner Bros., Codemasters, and Klei titles will be removed from the GeForce library on April 24. Presumably, others will continue to be added and removed throughout May and June as more and more developers react to the situation.

Have you been using Nvidia’s GeForce Now service to stream your games? Are you satisfied with the free service, or will you be purchasing a Founder Tier package?

Personally, although I’m in the middle of a GeForce-compatible title, CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I don’t think I could handle Geralt of Rivia in all of his raytraced glory. But we want to hear what you all think — let us know!

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