Nvidia announces the GeForce Grid: a Kepler-based cloud gaming solution

May 18, 2012
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    Although many are still refusing to believe it before they experience it first-hand, cloud gaming is upon us.

    OnLive, the pioneer of this innovative sector, is the one of the few companies to offer this type of service right now, but as it turns out, there are other companies — some unarguably better positioned in the gaming industry — that were intrigued and inspired by OnLive’s success. In case you’re wondering exactly how intrigued, it suffices to say that in the last quarter of 2011, OnLive claimed to be serving “tens of millions” of users in the US and the UK.

    While it’s unlikely that Nvidia will launch its own cloud based gaming service, the Santa Clara-based giant is very interested in providing cloud gaming companies with the infrastructure required. They will do so using the GeForce Grid: a complete gaming solution based on the new Nvidia Kepler GPUs. Each server will be able to accommodate up to four players, thanks to its four Nvidia Kepler GPUs, apparently a configuration that will make full use of the new encoder and virtualization technology featured inside the new Kepler architecture.

    Nvidia’s blog post that details the GeForce Grid tries to emphasize that, using GeForce Grid, you will enjoy cloud gaming on your PC, but also, on any kind of device with a display: tablet, smartphone, or TV. I’m sure that NVIDIA will optimize the GeForce Grid for its future Tegra SoCs. It would really seem a waste of resources not to, as their marketing pitch will suddenly become bulletproof.

    The same blog post also (unsurprisingly) takes a jab at OnLive, claiming that the “first generation of cloud gaming” services work at a latency of 280ms. The GeForce Grid actually seems to be so powerful that the latency will be lower than the 160ms of the console + TV combination, but not by much.

    Catch the Nvidia chart below, but please note that while the Kepler architecture will perform its capture/encode task like clockwork, the Game Pipeline and Network Latency sector don’t always work in the parameters that Nvidia have presented them.

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    Nvidia is apparently basing its optimistic timetable on a couple of factors that they cannot control. For starters, the Game Pipeline sector will only fit in the 50ms estimation if games will be specially optimized for the GeForce Grid and the combination of four Kepler GPUs per server. I’m willing to bet that most major game developers are going to walk that path in about five years or so, but an initial transitional period is bound to exist, and for a while, many games will not be optimized for cloud gaming.

    The second factor that Nvidia cannot control is how fast the network works. While Internet speeds are constantly on the rise (a minor exception in the last quarter of 2011), nobody can claim that all Internet networks will be fast enough for cloud gaming.

    Drawbacks left aside, Nvidia’s GeForce Grid is living proof that cloud gaming is the way of the future. And it makes a lot of sense: why do all the tasks on a local machine, when you can use huge clouds for processing, and reap the benefits with just a basic Internet connection? Not to mention that piracy, the biggest threat to developers, basically goes out the window with cloud gaming?

    Nvidia announced that they will deploy the first GeForce Grid implementation together with the cloud gaming company Gaikai and the virtualization expert Citrix.

    My subjective opinion is that Sony and Microsoft will definitely want in on the cloud gaming market, if it keeps growing like it has for the past few years. Some go as far as to say that the fifth generation PlayStation and the third generation Xbox will do all the rendering in the cloud (just imagine the low price of such a console!), but so much can happen til then.

    What are your thoughts on cloud gaming? Will it take off at a worldwide level or will it be a niche sector? Drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us what you think!

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