Microsoft is trying to convince the whole world to buy Activision Blizzard for $69 billion – and has just traded in for Nvidia’s backing, signing a 10-year deal giving Nvidia the right to distribute Xbox PC games via its GeForce Now cloud streaming gaming subscription service.
What does this mean for gamers like you and me? Well, I just got off the phone with Phil Eisler, VP of Nvidia GeForce Now, who gave me both a comprehensive answer and the short-term practical details on how to do it.
Overall, Eisler believes this deal could finally break the cloud gaming “chicken-and-egg” cycle — by providing enough games to attract enough players to convince publishers to offer more games, too .
Because this deal isn’t just for gloriole or Forza Motorsport, he tells me; It also includes the Bethesda games like Stand out And The Elder Scrolls. Minecraft coming to GeForce Now, he confirms. And if the deal with Activision Blizzard goes through, it won’t be just that call of Duty on GeForce Now; it will be the entire Battle.net catalog – inclusive over watch and presumably StarCraft, And Diablo.
Ideally, you shouldn’t have to wait for future Microsoft-owned games to appear in GeForce Now either. “The agreement is to release new titles day in, day out or as close as possible to the PC release of the games,” says Eisler. (The rights are tied to the PC versions of the games, not the Xbox console versions, he explains later.)
You may be able to stream Xbox PC games on release day
Even though Microsoft has its own Xbox cloud gaming service, GeForce Now could soon become one The Place to play Xbox games living in the cloud. Right now, GeForce Now is a little north of 1,500 titles, a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands you’d find on the Steam platform, but he’s hoping that could change after a deal of this magnitude.
And while Microsoft, Activision Blizzard, and Bethesda were among the first companies to pull their games off GeForce Now back in 2020, that shouldn’t happen again under this deal. “Once we have it on board, we have the rights to it for ten years,” says Eisler. (However, should Microsoft later decide to sell Studios, he’s not sure the deal would bind future owners.)
Sounds neat? Remember we’re just talking about this Streaming Rights for games you’ve already bought and games that are free to play – and even then, don’t expect instant access to every Microsoft game.
GeForce Now does not sell games. Unless they’re free-to-play, you’ll need to buy them from Steam, the Epic Games Store, and/or the Microsoft Store for now — and potentially Battle.net in the future if the Activision Blizzard deal goes through. “That’s how GeForce Now works,” he says. “We can stream them to authorized owners.”
Nvidia only wants to roll out a few games per week, says Eisler. The company doesn’t currently have the capacity to do more than maybe 10 games a week, he suggests. While Nvidia plans to make the first Microsoft games available via Steam and the Epic Games Store over the next few weeks, he estimates that it will take between six and 12 months to activate the Microsoft Store catalog and all existing games activate.
By the way, this is just an estimate. Eisler says the deal went through just last week and the companies “haven’t worked on detailed implementation plans yet.”
The big question on my mind: If I have the rights to play a game because I subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, can I play those games on GeForce Now? Will Microsoft make me buy the game again? Eisler won’t tell. “We currently have no announcement regarding Game Pass.”
If I ask him yes or no – “Does the contract give you the rights or not?” – he simply says: “I can’t answer that question.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if Game Pass were entirely separate: Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer made it clear in 2021 that studio acquisitions like Bethesda were about securing exclusive games for Game Pass.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft had agreed to let Game Pass subscribers play those games on GeForce Now either. If Microsoft is already getting its money, why not let Nvidia shoulder the server costs? I suppose it depends on how much Microsoft cares about its own cloud gaming future. The vision I laid out in this editorial won’t come true unless Xbox and Xbox Cloud Gaming become a seamless whole.