Ever since it officially launched last month, game publishers have been abandoning Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming platform in droves. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, has defended the service, arguing it’s the most developer-friendly option out there right now.
“Epic is wholeheartedly supporting NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW service with Fortnite and with Epic Games Store titles that choose to participate (including exclusives), and we’ll be improving the integration over time,” Sweeney wrote in a tweet last Friday. He praised the fact that Nvidia doesn’t take a cut of sales from the games that support GeForce Now and said companies should support it if they want to move the “game industry towards a healthier state.”
Nvidia’s GeForce Now platform is one of the more novel video game streaming services out there right now. Unlike Google Stadia or PlayStation Now, subscribing to GeForce Now doesn’t give you access to a library of games you can then stream. Instead, it streams games you already own by integrating with your Steam or Epic Game Store accounts. When you pay for GeForce, you’re paying for the hardware necessary to play a game and have it streamed to your laptop or smartphone. The end result, at least at launch, was the ability to play many of the games you owned, but they ran, while you were far from a gaming PC.
Some of them at least. Screenshot: Nvidia (Kotaku)
On the surface it seems like a completely innocuous value proposition, but that hasn’t stopped many of the biggest publishers from pulling support for GeForce Now from their games. Some companies, like Square Enix and Capcom, made this decision before the service left beta last month. Others, like Activision Blizzard, did it only a week after the service officially launched.
GeForce Now doesn’t have a dedicated list of all the games that support it, so it’s hard to know just how many publishers have jumped ship. Bethesda pulled all of its games last month, but left one exception: Wolfenstein: Youngbloods. 2K Games, meanwhile, is the latest publisher to takedown its entire catalogue, including big games like Civilization VI, Borderlands 3, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
The game publishers have been silent about why they’ve decided not to support the service. Every time games are taken off of GeForce Now, it’s Nvidia who announces they’re leaving on its forums. The company hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment on the exodus though, and many early adopters have been left to plead on the company’s forums and Reddit for the return of support for games like BioShock and Fallout 4.
“Devs should control where their games exist.”- Raphael van Lierop, director of The Long Dark
It’s still unclear why so many publishers have rejected GeForce Now. One possibility is that it’s meant to be a power move in negotiations with Nvidia over whether publishers should get a cut of subscriber fees. Another could be that some of these companies are working on streaming services of their own. At last year’s E3, Bethesda announced it was working on “Orion,” a project to make streaming games at higher quality and lower latency easier.
What adds to the confusion around the future of GeForce Now is just how many games the service still supports. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Arkham trilogy and both Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor games can be streamed, as can many of Sega’s games. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher II and III are also still supported. And then there’s Ubisoft, by far the biggest publisher still working with the service.
“Ubisoft fully supports NVIDIA’s GeForce Now with complete access to our PC games from the Ubisoft Store or any supported game stores,” Chris Early, the company’s SVP for Partnerships and Revenue, told Kotaku in an email. “We believe it’s a leading edge service that gives current and new PC players a high end experience with more choice in how and where they play their favourite games.”
But the way GeForce Now rolled out seemed to have caught many developers by surprise. Last week, director of The Long Dark, Raphael van Lierop, wrote on Twitter that Nvidia never asked permission to stream the game on its service. “Please take your complaints to them, not us. Devs should control where their games exist.”
Vice Games reported that some other indie studios like the makers of Into the Breach, Subset Games, and Celeste, Matt Makes Games, had no idea their games were on GeForce Now. While they weren’t calling on Nvidia to remove the games, they were also in the dark about the entire service. Even now some popular indie games like Slay the Spire are supported while others like Night In The Woods are not.
What does seem clear is that even though GeForce Now is a completely different approach to video game streaming than Google Stadia, it’s had a similarly botched launch. Sweeney’s vote of confidence might help bolster the service in the short term, but until Nvidia becomes more transparent about what games its service will support and for how long, signing up to become a GeForce Now founder is a risky bet.