Cloud gaming isn’t for everyone, but it’s getting easier to tell if it’s for you because Nvidia and Google are now letting you try their virtual gaming PCs for free. Following Google’s recent announcement that any Stadia developer will be able to offer an instantly accessible free trial of their game without needing to log into a Google account, Nvidia’s GeForce Now is now pushing reduced-friction demos as well — starting with Chorus, Ghostrunner, Inscryption, Diplomacy Is Not an Option and The Riftbreaker: Prologue.
Typically, you’d need to log into an Nvidia account, then log in again to a Steam, Epic Games, or Ubisoft account to play one of these demos on GeForce Now, and you’d have to search for them as well. Now, the Nvidia account is all you’ll need. Demos will automatically appear in a new “Instant Play Free Demos” row and won’t require the second login.
That’s still far more friction than cloud gaming should optimally have, and you’ll only be able to launch them from within the app or play.geforcenow.com web app. (There’s no ability to click an ad to instantly be playing a demo just yet.) But it’s interesting to hear that — unlike Google — Nvidia is now welcoming demos from developers that don’t yet have a full game on GeForce Now quite yet.
“We will accept any free demo. We just ask that if a full version of the game becomes available later that our users can play it on GeForce Now,” reads one of the answers I requested from Phil Eisler, VP and GM of Nvidia’s cloud gaming platform.
Eisler tells The Verge that developers and publishers can submit any existing PC demo as-is, no modification necessary, which makes sense since the GFN servers are just Windows gaming PCs in the cloud. (They don’t need ported to Linux like with Google Stadia, though Eisler didn’t explicitly point that out.)
The downside is that, unlike Stadia, the demos are just demos. They don’t save your progress in the game and let you pick up where you left off if you choose to buy it afterward. They also don’t prompt you to buy or subscribe to GFN afterward, either, which some might find nice. Eisler says Nvidia is exploring a purchase flow and might consider ways to transition from a demo to a full game in the future, though.
The one thing I’d caution, testing both GeForce Now and Google Stadia, is that neither platform lets you see what they’re like at their best when you play for free. Nvidia confirmed that unless you have a Priority or RTX 3080 membership, these demos will launch with the company’s free tier of remote computers, where you’ll be getting less impressive response times and might have to share the power of even a last-gen RTX 2080-class graphics card with another user.
The newer RTX 3080 tier is the most impressive cloud gaming service yet, but you’re currently looking at a minimum commitment of $20 to try those improvements.
If you do try GeForce Now, though, and don’t mind connecting your Steam and Epic accounts, you’ll find an awful lot more to try for free. It’s got a solid selection of totally free-to-play games, including Fortnite, and you can try any (supported) game you own on PC there for an hour at a time.