The Nvidia-Activision divorce is what cloud gaming critics fear

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Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service suffered a blow earlier this week when all of the games from publishers Activision Blizzard disappeared from the service. The games apparently weren’t supposed to be on the service to begin with — but their disappearance is something that those who resist digital gaming subscriptions are afraid of happening.

The list of games included Diablo 3Overwatch, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and they disappeared from GeForce Now around Tuesday. At the time, a spokesperson on the GeForce Now forums made it clear to users that they would just have to deal with it: “As we take GeForce NOW to the next step in its evolution, we’ve worked with publishers to onboard a robust catalog of your PC games. This means continually adding new games, and on occasion, having to remove games – similar to other digital service providers.”

[Read: Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service is here, and you can try it for free]

Why did this happen? An Nvidia spokesperson today told Bloomberg that the games shouldn’t have been part of the launch to begin with. Activision was part of the beta test, and Nvidia assumed its agreement extended to the 90-day trial period first customers are currently enjoying. It does not, and Activision wants a commercial contract before it participates, says the spokesperson: “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 their games from our service, with hope we can work with them to re-enable these, and more, in the future.”

The corporate quandary notwithstanding, this vanishing realizes one of the fears of those resisting the adoption of cloud gaming, and other forms of digital-first gaming. When you buy a subscription to a game service, you’re essentially purchasing the right to temporarily play a game. You don’t own the games in question, and if the publishers ever remove them for whatever reason, you’re out of luck. It’s been a common worry ever since the rise of digitally downloading games and has only become more common since the advent of Stadia and GeForce Now.

It doesn’t sound like something worth worrying about, except this “misunderstanding” essentially provides a case study for that fear. What if the companies don’t work out their differences? If you were playing Modern Warfare or Diablo 3 during the GeForce Now trial, then your only choices are like it or lump it… or just lump it, actually.

There’s a little bit of hope left, as Activision and Nvidia are reportedly attempting to negotiate a new contract. Hopefully the games come back, and the GeForce Now users don’t have any more dramatic disappearances in the future.

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