What Is Cloud Gaming?

One of the hottest trends in gaming is also known as game streaming or gaming as a service.
by Phil Eisler

Cloud gaming takes your favorite game and runs it from a server — a powerful, industrial-strength PC — inside a secure data center, instead of using the device in front of you to power it.

Gameplay is then streamed over the internet back to you, allowing you to play the latest games on nearly any device, even ones that are not capable of running that game.

Cloud gaming streams the latest games from powerful GPUs in remote data centers to nearly any device.

Video games are interactive, obviously. So, cloud gaming servers need to process information and render frames in real time. Unlike movies or TV shows that can provide a buffer — a few extra seconds of information that gets sent to your device before it’s time to be displayed — games are dependent on the user’s next keystroke or button press.

Introducing GeForce NOW

We started our journey to cloud gaming over 10 years ago, spending that time to optimize every millisecond of the pipeline that we manage, from the graphics cards in the data centers to the software on your local device.

Here’s how it works.

GeForce NOW is a service that takes a GeForce gaming PC’s power and flexibility and makes it accessible through the cloud. This gives you an always-on gaming rig that never needs upgrading, patching or updating — across all of your devices.

One of the things that makes GeForce NOW unique is that it connects to popular PC games stores — Steam, Epic Games Store, Ubisoft Connect and more — so gamers can play the same PC version of games their friends are playing.

It also means, if they already own a bunch of games, they can log in and start playing them. And if they have, or upgrade to, a gaming rig, they have access to download and play those games on that local PC.

GeForce NOW empowers you to take your PC games with you, wherever you go.

Gamers get an immersive PC gaming experience, instant access to the world’s most popular games and gaming communities, and the freedom to play on any device, at any time.

It’s PC gaming for those whose PCs have integrated graphics, for Macs and Chromebooks that don’t have access to the latest games, or for internet-connected mobile devices where PC gaming is only a dream.

Over 80 percent of GeForce NOW members are playing on devices that don’t meet the min spec for the games they’re playing.

To start, sign up for the service, download the app and begin your cloud gaming journey.

Powering PC Gaming from the Cloud

Cloud data centers with NVIDIA GPUs power the world’s most computationally complex tasks, from AI to data analytics and research. Combined with advanced GeForce PC gaming technologies, GeForce NOW delivers high-end PC gaming to passionate gamers.

NVIDIA RTX servers provide the backbone for GeForce NOW.

GeForce NOW data centers include NVIDIA RTX servers that feature RTX GPUs. These GPUs enable the holy grail of modern graphics: real-time ray tracing, and DLSS, NVIDIA’s groundbreaking AI rendering that boosts frame rates for uncompromised image quality. The hardware is supported with NVIDIA Game Ready Driver performance improvements.

Patented capture and encoding technology — along with hardware acceleration in both video encoding and decoding, pioneered by NVIDIA more than a decade ago — allows for gameplay to be streamed at high frame rates, with low enough latency that most games will feel like the game is being played locally. Gameplay rendered in GeForce NOW data centers is converted into high-definition H.265 and H.264 video and streamed back to the gamer instantaneously.

The total time it takes from button press or keystroke to the action appearing on the screen is less than one-tenth of a second, faster than the blink of an eye.

Growing Cloud Gaming Around the World

With the ambition to deliver quality cloud gaming to all gamers, NVIDIA works with partners around the world including telecommunications and service providers to put GeForce NOW servers to work in their own data centers, ensuring lightning-fast connections.

Partners that have already deployed RTX cloud gaming servers include SoftBank and KDDI in Japan, LG Uplus in Korea, GFN.RU in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, Zain in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan Mobile in Taiwan.

Together with partners from around the globe, we’re scaling GeForce NOW to enable millions of gamers to play their favorite games, when and where they want.

Get started with your gaming adventures on GeForce NOW.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on the GeForce NOW game-streaming service, how it works, ways you can make the most of it, and where it’s going next. 

In our next blog, we’ll talk about how we bring your games to GeForce NOW.

Follow GeForce NOW on Facebook and Twitter and stay up to date on the latest features and game launches. 

Learn more about gaming technology on the NVIDIA Technical Blog.