Google Stadia vs. Nvidia GeForce Now

From platforms to games, here's how Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce size up

google unveils stadia streaming service

In early 2019, Google Stadia was officially revealed to the world after initial technical tests under the name “Project Stream.” The game-streaming service promises to revolutionize the way we play video games, eliminating the need to buy powerful hardware or even download games, and instead gain instant access the second you want to play them.

Stadia is not alone in this experimental field, however. There are already many existing adversaries, with one of its primary competitors being Nvidia’s GeForce Now service. Although Nvidia GeForce Now is still in beta and Google Stadia has yet to be released, we compared what we know about the two services to see which one will be the better choice so you can make the final call when they finally release.

Supported platforms

You’ll first need to learn which platforms will be supported by each streaming service before you choose between Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now because there are some major differences.

Google Stadia will run through your Chrome Browser, and though the initial Project Stream test only worked on desktop and laptop computers, this will not be the case with the final release. Instead, you will be able to play Google Stadia games on nearly any device with access to Chrome.

This means your television, tablet, and mobile phone will also be a compatible gaming platform, and your progress will be synced up through your Google account so you can drop the game on one device and begin playing it on another device without skipping a beat.

However, televisions will require Chromecast Ultra in order to gain access, and only the Pixel 3 and 3A phones will be supported at launch.

Nvidia GeForce Now is designed to stream your library of PC games, and thus it’s supported on PC, Mac, and the Nvidia Shield device. The GeForce Now app will run a network test to determine if your system meets the optimal requirements, and it will find any games you already own to determine if they support GeForce Now.

With GeForce Now, you gain access to PC games even if they aren’t available on the platform you’re using, such as Mac. If you do happen to play on a Mac, systems produced as early as 2008 will be able to run GeForce Now.

Controllers

google stadia vs nvidia geforce now controller  1
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s likely that you’ll be able to use the controller of your preference across all streaming services, but only Google Stadia currently offers an exclusive option with built-in features. Google says that Stadia will also support the DualShock 4, Xbox One controller, and Xbox Adaptive Controller, as well as mouse-and-keyboard setups.

Nvidia GeForce Now supports mouse-and-keyboard setups and the DualShock 4 in its USB and Bluetooth configurations. It also supports Logitech’s F310, F510, and F710 gamepads, and the wired Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers.

If you don’t plan on buying extra accessories, this makes the two services fairly even. However, the Stadia controller is an option that could sway the competition in Google’s favor. It has a button layout similar to other popular gamepads but comes with a Google Assistant button that you can use to get tips on the difficult games you’re playing. A Share button is also included, similar to the one used on the DualShock 4 and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. The controller will cost $69.

Streaming quality

Once you’re ready to start streaming your games, you’ll have to figure out how much the stream’s resolution and quality is crucial to your experience. Google Stadia promises to surpass Nvidia GeForce Now by a considerable margin, offering 4K resolution with HDR and 60 frames per second at launch, and 8K resolution down the line. To do this, a connection speed of at least 35 Mbps is required, but the service can be enjoyed at 720p for those with lower speeds.

We were able to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey during the Project Stream technical tests, and though it didn’t impress us too much in terms of quality, it provided a more than capable experience running in a Chrome browser. Google Stadia will be enhanced by the “Playability ToolKit,” which will give developers access to a user’s streaming capabilities so they can adjust things like surround sound, HDR, and resolution automatically.

Nvidia GeForce Now’s capabilities aren’t quite as impressive, but they also don’t require you to have a fast internet speed in order to use them. For those with a 15 Mbps speed, you will be able to run your games at 720p and 60 frames per second. The resolution will be bumped to 1080p if your speed is at least 25 Mbps. The service requires either a 5GHz wireless router or a hardwired Ethernet connection.

At the time, there is no way to play games in 4K on the Nvidia GeForce Now service. If you planned on hooking up your platform of choice to your television rather than using a monitor at a desk, then the quality disparity between the two services will be pretty obvious. However, those gaming exclusively through monitors should see less of a difference.

Games

The biggest difference between Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now is how it handles games. Google has not outlined its full plan for Stadia, but it claims you will be able to instantly play games you see in online advertisements, including Doom Eternal and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Other games designed to make use of the service’s unique features will also be coming, and Google has founded Stadia Games and Entertainment with industry veteran Jade Raymond, as it looks to produce Stadia-exclusive titles. Certain games will also make use of a machine-learning tool called Transfer ML, which allows developers to apply a texture to environments based on an existing image, such as a painting.

Other titles coming to Google Stadia during its launch period include Mortal Kombat 11, Rage 2, The Division 2, and Ghost Recon Breakpoint. A full list of games can be found via the official Stadia fact sheet.

Nvidia GeForce Now gives you a few different ways to play PC games through the service. Using the GeForce Now app, you can search through the list of supported games and buy them on the associated digital storefront. If you already own one of the 400-plus supported games, you can look in the “My Library” section to access the game. Though previously you could also add games that weren’t officially supported, this is no longer the case.  Supported storefronts include Steam, Uplay, and Blizzard’s Battle.net. You can play both paid and free-to-play games.

Supported games for GeForce Now include Hitman 2, Resident Evil 7, Civilization VI, Skyrim, and The Division 2. You can check the full list to see if your favorite game is included.

During the beta period for GeForce Now, you can play a game for up to four hours at a time before having to start a new session. You can save your progress and immediately begin a new session, depending on how many others are trying to play.

Features

google unveils stadia streaming service gdc news stage

Nvidia GeForce Now is light on platform-specific features, with its main intention being to open up the door for more players to experience PC games, including PC exclusives. This means that if you own a Mac and have been collecting a library of PC games through giveaways or deep sales, you will still be able to play them on GeForce Now without having to get a new device, partition your hard drive, or run Boot Camp with Windows 10.

Google Stadia, on the other hand, plans to offer features we haven’t seen on other platforms. This includes “Crowd Play,” which lets viewers of a YouTube stream jump into a game with their favorite streamers. Viewers will also be able to join a game from the exact point the streamer was in, complete with their save data. If you’re watching a YouTube advertisement for a game on a publisher’s channel, you’ll be able to instantly start playing the game with one click. Google states the process takes as little as five seconds.

Pricing and Availability

geforce now hands on preview screens 4

A final release date for Nvidia GeForce Now has not yet been revealed, but the service is currently running in a beta stage. During this stage, GeForce Now is completely free, and you can sign up on the official website to request access.

Google already revealed that Stadia will be launching in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and most of Europe later in 2019, but it will have several different pricing options, depending on what you’re looking to do.

Stadia Founder’s Edition, $129: Comes with three months of Stadia Pro, as well as a limited-edition Night Blue controller, Chromecast Ultra, first dibs on a username, and a three-month buddy pass. It’s available in November.

Stadia Pro, $10 per month: 4K resolution with 60 frames per second and HDR, discounts on game purchases, full Destiny 2 access, free games available with a subscription. It launches in 2019.

Stadia Base, free: 1080p resolution with 60 frames per second. You can buy games you want and play them in a Chrome browser. This will not launch until 2020.

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