Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service just leapfrogged Google Stadia in performance, with a new $200-a-year tier that practically gives you the power of an RTX 3080 desktop graphics card in the cloud. But if you’re grandfathered into the original $4.99 a month “Founders” tier, or pay $100 a year for “Priority” access, you may not be getting quite what you expected — because Nvidia has quietly revealed it’s capping the frame rates of 12 specific games to ensure consistent performance.
Nvidia now has an official support page (via 9to5Google) explaining the practice, after Redditors and others revealed that a variety of games were locked to frame rates lower than 60fps. It appears that Nvidia’s been doing this for quite a while but only for a handful of demanding games. I did a little searching, and some people were already complaining about being locked to 45fps in Cyberpunk 2077 in December 2020, just as Nvidia admits here.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Immortals Fenyx Rising are the other games that have sub-50fps frame rates, while others run a bit higher. Here’s the full list of games where frame rates are being limited:
While it’s not a good look for Nvidia to retroactively reveal something like this, the company says the vast majority of games do run at 60fps or higher, and it does have an explanation for the limits:
For our Priority Members, the maximum frames rendered per second is generally set to 60, or higher, for most of the 1,100+ games we’ve onboarded so far. There are some exceptions that we determined do not run well enough at 60 FPS on the GPUs used by Priority members. So the default OPS for these specific graphics-intensive games cannot be overridden. This is to ensure all Priority members are running a consistent, high-quality experience.
I just find it a little strange that Nvidia chose to impose this instead of giving its users the choice between frame rate and graphical quality — even many PlayStation and Xbox console games allow you to choose. But I suppose part of cloud gaming’s pitch is that it can be more frictionless. Maybe you don’t want to think about graphical settings.
Nvidia tells The Verge that its RTX 3080 tier doesn’t currently have any framerate caps, but kept open the possibility that it might add some someday:
We currently do not cap frame rates on RTX 3080 tier because of the performance gains over the previous generation server. While we do not foresee needing to do this in the future, it is impossible to anticipate the demands of unreleased games and the impact they might have on the server hardware.
In a briefing last month, GeForce Now boss Phil Eisler promised that the 3080 tier would be a different class of experience. “With the 3080 tier, it’s exclusive access to 3080 — every time you play, you get a 3080, even if you’re running at 300 frames per second.”
That’s not true of GeForce Now’s free tier, which can use virtual GPU techniques to split one physical GPU in the cloud between two users. That can make the service more cost-effective. Nvidia wasn’t able to immediately answer whether its mid-range Priority tier ever splits a GPU in two.
By the way, if you’re a founder and do want to upgrade to the RTX 3080 tier, you don’t lose your “founders for life” benefit, even if you decide to switch back later, so long as you keep paying. Nvidia addresses this extensively in an FAQ. You’ll be paying a lot more for that tier, of course, but there is a 10 percent discount.
Update, 7:59PM ET: Added Nvidia’s comments on whether the new RTX 3080 tier might see capped framerates, and a mention of the founders for life benefit.