We’ve never seen a killer app for cloud gaming yet — but Starfield might be the next best thing. It has now arrived on Nvidia’s GeForce Now, the first cloud gaming service that might do it justice, and the only one with a completely free trial, no credit card required.
Both the Steam and Microsoft Store versions of Starfield are live right now. That means Xbox Game Pass subscribers don’t need to purchase a copy, and even if you’ve already started the game, your savegames should come along for the ride.
Why is Starfield such a big deal for cloud gaming? On PCs, the game is notoriously hard on both CPUs and GPUs and requires an SSD to play. It controversially didn’t launch with Nvidia’s frame rate-enhancing DLSS tech to ease the load, either. It’s the kind of game that single-handedly drives PC upgrades — or maybe, just maybe, drives players to the cloud so they can stream to TV, PC, and phone.
That may already be happening: when I tried booting it up on Microsoft’s xCloud this past weekend, I was greeted with 15-minute wait times, something I’ve never seen before.
I also experienced slightly muddy graphics and considerable lag via Microsoft’s xCloud — things that Nvidia’s pricey GeForce Now RTX 4080 subscription cloud servers are typically good at handling.
As I’ve explained before, only Nvidia’s top-tier “Ultimate” GeForce Now service really gives you a taste of what cloud gaming is truly capable of in 2023 — there’s a free tier, too, but it’s limited in latency, resolution, and image quality. To take full advantage, you’ll be paying $20 a month, or $100 for six months, on top of the price of the game. (Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes new first-party Xbox games for $17 a month, but Nvidia’s GeForce Now is about letting you play select games you already own from PC game libraries like Steam.)
Starfield is also the first big test for Nvidia’s 10-year deal with Microsoft that gives it the right to stream Xbox games via GeForce Now. Microsoft owns Starfield developer Bethesda, and Nvidia promised it would use the deal to “release new titles day-and-date or as close to day-and-date as we can with the PC release of the games,” GeForce Now boss Phil Eisler told me this past February.
Assuming Starfield runs great on GeForce Now — we’ll see! — a one-week delay isn’t all that bad.