In the same way that streaming Netflix isn’t quite as high quality as playing a 4K HDR Blu-ray at home, streaming a game over a service like GeForce Now is an experience that requires some sacrifices. Video compression meant that sometimes movement got a little muddy, and occasionally there were blocky distortions, or a half-second moment where the game would cut out and need to catch up.
On faster connections though—how I managed to get over-50Mbps speeds on hotel Wi-Fi, I’ll never know—even these issues were few and far between. I spent time playing Cyberpunk 2077 and Control, both games that make prolific use of Nvidia’s ray tracing and DLSS which gives the RTX 3080 a chance to shine. I was able to play long enough to forget that I was playing a game on a server hundreds of miles away.
That would be enough to make a compelling argument that, even if GeForce Now isn’t going to replace your gaming rig right now, that it could be a decent option for anyone who doesn’t want to buy or build their own. But now we have to deal with the supply chain crisis in the room.
Why Buy When the Cow is for Rent
$100 every six months for the RTX 3080 plan comes out to just under $17 per month. That means that streaming games from Nvidia’s fancy graphics card in the cloud costs nearly as much as the most expensive Netflix plan, and you still have to bring your own games. Fortunately, Nvidia lets you use your existing library from services like Steam or Epic, but not all games are supported. It’s a lot to ask when you could just buy your own for an MSRP price of $700.
Except, you can’t.
We’re serious. Buying many graphics cards–especially high-end cards like the 3080–isn’t just “finding a Turbo Man doll on Christmas Eve” difficult. For the average person, it’s downright impossible. Some commonly advised strategies on acquiring one include hanging out in Discord servers and YouTube streams dedicated to monitoring store stocks; camping outside retailers; and buying entire prebuilt gaming PCs just to salvage the card out of them. Alternatively you could just bite the bullet and shell out close to $2,000 for one from resellers.
When those are the only other options on the table, $200 a year starts to sound a lot more reasonable. It would take about three and a half years to spend as much on GeForce Now as an actual RTX 3080 would cost to own at its typical retail price, but only if you can get your hands on one. There’s also the possibility that in this timeframe, GeForce Now’s top tiers will get upgrades to newer, more powerful hardware.
In short, it’s not only easier to rent an RTX 3080 via GeForce Now than it is to buy one yourself—and by “easier”, we largely mean “possible”—you might even save money in the long run by doing so.
As Good as it Gets
If you play GeForce Now on the free tier, it has a few drawbacks. Since the service’s free tier could get unwieldy to host very quickly, players have to wait in a queue to get online, and play sessions are limited to one hour apiece. The Priority tier, the service’s previous highest option, lets gamers skip ahead of the free tier users and play on some more advanced hardware for up to 6 hours.