Nvidia GRID — what’s it all about?
What is Nvidia GRID? We're glad you asked because we've done a bit of digging. Grab a cup of tea and sit back as we take you through Nvidia's cloud gaming revolution
A notable theme of CES 2013 was gaming: mobile gaming, streaming and cloud gaming were all topics discussed by a variety of companies all with their own related products.
One of the more interesting things we saw was Nvidia’s GRID service, which was demoed at the event.
‘What is GRID?’ we hear you ask, well we could give a lengthy explanation or we could just sum it up succinctly with this photo of Borderlands 2, a current-gen Xbox and PC game, running on an HTC One X smartphone:
Pretty cool huh? This was taken by our reviews editor Basil, who used the service on the One X to play Street Fighter IV. He reported it delivered excellent performance and that he had no trouble linking together combo attacks with virtually zero latency.
And it doesn’t end there, with the same service allowing you to stream high-end games to your PC, Mac, tablet or even straight to a TV set.
De ja vu
This might sound like familiar territory and you might, quite rightly, be remembering OnLive and its troubled history.
It’s true, the premise is similar to OnLive – streaming cloud gaming to any device from central servers on a subscription model.
What’s also true is that there isn’t anything new about the concept but, like many other cloud-based services it has so far failed to take off due to a lack of consumer interest.
However, there are a few key differences with Nvidia’s approach.
The first being that this isn’t Nvidia’s primary enterprise, at least not yet. OnLive was set up purely as a cloud gaming company, while Nvidia has its own chip and PC hardware businesses ticking over nicely, providing a steady stream of revenue for it to pump some of it back into GRID and meaning that all of its eggs aren’t in the cloud gaming basket.
Which brings us to our second point: experience. Nvidia has stacks of it, it’s been developing gaming-specific graphics hardware for PCs for donkeys years and more recently has expanded quite successfully into mobile devices too. The company is both very knowledgeable on what gamers want and very good at delivering on that front.
Thirdly, as Nvidia’s senior product manager Andrew Fear pointed out to us during an interview, the company is taking a unique approach compared to its competitors.
He explained that existing services have largely used ‘consumer-grade hardware’ for their server stacks, something which in practice doesn’t work because it isn’t designed from the ground-up to cope with game hosting on a commercial scale.
Nvidia's custom-tailored setup means it can simultaneously support 720 gamers per server rack with a console-like experience in terms of latency.