NVIDIA Confirms GeForce NOW Priority Members Will See FPS Caps Below 60 FPS In These Games
Google's Stadia service may have gotten a lot of attention when it launched, but it was far from the first such service. GeForce NOW predates it, and is still going strong to this day. NVIDIA offers three tiers for its cloud gaming service. The first is a free tier that anyone can use; however, it's limited to relatively low-quality streams at a maximum of one hour per session.
The highest tier is new; it is literally just called "RTX 3080," and predictably, it offers the best performance available of the three levels. It also costs $200 a year, and isn't actually available yet. Folks who want to seriously play games using NVIDIA's game streaming service will definitely be using the middle "Priority" tier, which offers "priority access to gaming servers," sessions up to six hours long, and naturally, high-end graphics performance.
NVIDIA specifically advertises the Priority tier as delivering "up to 1080p at 60 FPS." It's that "up to" that's got some people annoyed, as it turns out that while you can adjust the settings in most titles, certain games have a fixed framerate cap that can't be removed. Reddit user LizzieLovesDaGlizzy posted about it in the GeForce NOW subreddit, where they initially complained that Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy title was capped at 50 FPS.
After a few days of going back and forth with NVIDIA's support, LizzieLovesDaGlizzy was told through an e-mail that even on the Priority tier, some games simply have their frame rates capped below 60 FPS. NVIDIA helpfully sent along a link to a knowledge base article that details the specific games which are capped below 60 FPS. You can see the list reproduced below:
That "OPS" column up there refers to "Optimum Playable Settings." Indeed, NVIDIA says that the reason that some games are running below 60 FPS is simply because the hardware that the games are running on can't sustain 60 FPS. That sounds reasonable on the face of it, but setting frame rate caps below 60 FPS introduces a new potential problem for gamers: judder.
Almost all computer displays run at 60Hz or a multiple of it. When game frame rate matches the display's refresh rate, you get perfectly smooth frame delivery that makes the game a delight to play. When the game frame rate falls below the display refresh rate, you get judder, a phenomenon that can make the frame rate feel much lower than it actually is. A frame rate difference of just 5 FPS is enough to introduce significant judder, so that the game's motion looks jerky and hitch-y rather than smooth.
NVIDIA's response to such a complaint would probably be that the user should buy a G-Sync display. Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technologies like G-Sync and FreeSync obviate the judder issue by matching a display's refresh rate to the actual content refresh rate, at least in theory. Still, not everyone has access to such a display, and there's also the player-agency angle to consider. By setting a hard cap on these games in this way, it prevents players from choosing to lower the games' settings to achieve higher performance. In any case, it's easy to understand how frustrating it can be to pay for a service that advertises "1080p at 60 FPS" and doesn't quite deliver on it all the time. At least the list is only 12 titles long (so far).