As part of Microsoft's continued attempts to get the Activision Blizzard deal over the line, we've seen a couple of landmark deals struck. Coinciding with an EU session on the matter we saw first an agreement with Nintendo, and then perhaps more of a big deal, with NVIDIA.
Not downplaying the Nintendo deal at all, but I don't play Switch games. I do, however, play a lot of PC and cloud games, so the NVIDIA agreement to put Microsoft's first party titles on GeForce Now definitely pricks up my ears.
Frankly, I'm bored of reading about this takeover now. It just needs to get finished. But this latest development with NVIDIA GeForce Now is really interesting. Business reasons aside, a couple of striking thoughts stuck in my mind. There's little reason to buy Xbox titles from the Microsoft Store anymore, and GeForce Now is going to be the best cloud to play them on.
Xbox games on an RTX 4080 for all
Xbox Cloud Gaming is good. Really good. But even based on the Xbox Series X as it is now, it simply can't compete on sheer horsepower with GeForce Now. Granted, not everyone will opt for the new Ultimate tier, but it's an option
And that option gives access to an RTX 4080 to everyone. You can play games on a mobile device, tablet, or basically, any laptop using a $1,200 graphics card. You get insane graphical performance, high frame rates, and high resolution, assuming you have a device that can display both.
What this means is that games like Forza Horizon 5, the upcoming Forza Motorsport, and even Diablo 4, will look and perform the best on NVIDIA's cloud compared to Microsoft's. This might not appeal to everyone, especially if you don't already play PC games. But for the PC gamers out there, it certainly makes more sense than signing up for Game Pass just to play these games through the cloud.
Xbox putting more games where gamers want to buy them
Microsoft has been opening up to Steam more and more in recent times, which has been awesome. The truth remains that many just don't like or want to use the Microsoft Store. And that's fine. If you've spent years building up a library on Steam, the Microsoft Store is just an inconvenience. And there are still sometimes performance issues with it. Lord knows I've been frustrated with that enough myself.
Steam is integrated with GeForce Now, though, and so it seems to make sense that as part of this deal this would be the route Microsoft takes to put all its games on the service. It would certainly be better than building an integration for the Microsoft Store.
Call of Duty is already there, too, having recently launched. The way GeForce Now works means that Steam is definitely the easiest way and, let's face it, the way most would want it anyway. You're essentially just renting a powerful PC in a server room somewhere and it allows access to the entire Steam library. Publishers just have to agree to their games being on there.
And, you know, more Xbox games on Steam means more Xbox games on Steam Deck, too.
Another exciting step for cloud gaming
What I'm most excited about in this deal is that cloud gaming as a whole is taking another step forward. I've been a little down on it since Google shuttered Stadia, but this news has picked up my mood again. Sure, I already subscribe to Game Pass so I can play Xbox games in the cloud, but it's still never been my favorite place to play.
In part, that's down to the lack of keyboard and mouse support. There are some games I just want to play that way, and I'd still rather buy them on PC than just make do. GeForce Now gives me that option if I wish. I can use my laptop or PC, neither of which have an RTX 4080 inside, to play those games how I want to play them in high resolution and high frame rate.
I've been trying to get more involved with cloud gaming over console or PC because it's just a lot of the time more convenient. The same reason for using the Steam Deck a lot. I don't have to go to my desk and fire up my gaming PC nor do I have to do the same to use my Series X.
The ideal endgame would be access to Game Pass PC games through Steam, but this is at least a happy medium. It also underlines Microsoft's commitment to supporting gamers whichever platforms they want to play on. If only all of their competitors were embracing it.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine