You can blame Nvidia, not just Activision Blizzard, for their GeForce Now falling-out

 theverge.com  02/15/2020 02:03:08   Sean Hollister
Image: Nvidia

When we learned that Nvidias GeForce Now cloud gaming service was losing access to every Activision Blizzard game only one week after leaving beta, Ill admit my first thought was that maybe a short-sighted, money-grubbing corporation had decided to take its ball and go home.

That may still be what happened, but it turns out there was a more pressing problem: Nvidia didnt actually get permission to keep its games on GeForce Now after launch.

While Nvidia confirmed to The Verge that it did, in fact, reach out to Activision ahead of launch to ask whether the giant game company was OK with its games staying on the paid version of the service, there was a misunderstanding about whether Activision actually gave that permission.

(Narrator: it did not.)

Heres a statement from Nvidia:

Activision Blizzard has been a fantastic partner during the GeForce Now beta, which we took to include the free trial period for our founders membership. Recognizing the misunderstanding, we removed the games from our service, with hope we can work with them to re-enable these, and more, in the future.

That reconciliation may not happen, though. According to Bloomberg  which reported the misunderstanding earlier  Activision Blizzard wanted to negotiate a new commercial agreement before Nvidia could serve up the games, and Nvidia has been pretty clear that its business model is to not have commercial agreements with game publishers. Instead, it wants to let gamers buy their games on existing platforms like Steam, Epic, UPlay and Battle.net and play them on GeForce Now the same way theyd play them on their home PC, giving publishers the same amount of money theyd have normally.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson tells us theres no commercial agreement like that in place.

In other words, Nvidia should have really pulled Activision Blizzards games ahead of its launch last week, the way it did with games from other hesitant publishers like Capcom, Konami, Rockstar, and Square Enix. (At the time, GeForce Now boss Phil Eisler told me that some publishers are taking a while to make up their minds, so its possible theyll come around.)

But because Nvidia didnt originally pull them, we now have two sets of news headlines hammering it home that services like GeForce Now are only as good as legal distribution agreements allow them to be. You may think you own a digital game, but that may not always give you the ability to play it on a computer youre renting in the cloud.

PCWorlds headline last week echoes my thinking: That sucks.

By the way, none of this has to do with Activisions recent multi-year partnership with Google; the games arent necessarily going to Googles Stadia cloud gaming service instead. For one thing, thatd require porting them to run on Stadias Linux-based servers; for another, the partnerships about YouTube and Google Cloud, not Stadia. The company said on its Q4 earnings call that Stadia isnt part of the deal.

Right now, we are focusing on the work between Activision Blizzard and YouTube and Google Cloud specifically, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson tells me. There you have it.

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