If I told you I played Fortnite on a $280 phone with smooth PS5 level graphics, would you believe me? Of course you wouldn’t because it’s impossible, right? With traditional computing methods, yes, it’s not something we’ll see for a few more years. But with the power of Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud, that dream is possible today. Perhaps even more amazingly, it won’t cost you anything at all.
That’s because a new touchscreen version of Fortnite is available today on the GeForce Now app for Android – and, perhaps even more impressively, on iOS by accessing GeForce Now on the Safari browser – giving gamers access to Fortnite with the best quality no matter what device they use. Heck, for fun, I even played a 45 minute session on a public Wi-Fi hotspot to see how resilient GeForce Now would be to the stresses of anything less than the best routers available today and I was blown away by the results.
Today’s news is twofold. The first was the availability of Fortnite on GeForce Now for iOS devices. That’s a big deal since iOS gamers haven’t been able to take part in the world’s biggest battle royale game since Fortnite was pulled from Apple’s AppStore in August 2020.
Second is the release of proper touch controls for the Fortnite client on GeForce Now when played on a mobile device. Essentially, the “mobile” version of Fortnite is what players can expect here. That means integrated dual-stick controls with on-screen contextual buttons. This is different from that horrible on-screen controller layout that was already available on GeForce Now, which makes it impossible to play a shooter due to the thumbsticks and trigger ‘buttons’ being split and players usually only have two thumbs.
If you’ve ever played Fortnite mobile with touch controls, you’ll know exactly what to expect. You can choose from three preset options, including auto-trigger, tap anywhere, or dedicated on-screen buttons. While there are a reduced number of graphics options compared to the normal PC version of the game, it basically runs on a mix of high to ultra settings when using GeForce Now’s RTX 3080 tier. Plus, it runs at 120fps on phones with a compatible 120Hz display.
There’s no RTX support for GeForce Now at the moment, so while water and other reflections certainly look nice, they’re not entirely accurate. Probably not something you’ll notice on a small phone screen, anyway.
For me, the biggest disappointment was the lack of gyro aiming support. Gyro aiming was officially added to Fortnite in February and it has made the biggest difference to my aiming accuracy when using a controller. It’s not a deal-breaker but I definitely play worse without gyro support. Hopefully Nvidia can translate this in the future, as the gyro aiming option is actually in this version of Fortnite – it’s just not about transmitting data from the phone’s gyro sensor to GeForce Now.
How it works
GeForce Now is a free app on Android and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. iOS users will need to access the GeForce Now website on the Safari browser on their iPhone or iPad. From there you will log in to your Nvidia account. If you’ve never created a GeForce Now account, you can choose from one of the available service tiers, ranging from free to $20 per month, depending on how much playtime and hardware power you want. For this demo, I was using the RTX 3080 tier, which normally costs $20 per month.
Free Tiers are available but only allow one hour maximum play time per login session. If you’re trying GeForce Now for the first time, start with a free account and make sure it meets your expectations.
Once logged in, a list of available games will be displayed. Many of them require you to own them on a separate platform like Steam or GOG, but games like Fortnite are free to play once you’ve linked your Epic account. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s really quite simple.
Beyond this initial setup phase, the normal path to play is to launch the app, tap Fortnite, then tap play. It takes maybe 20 seconds to get into the game from when you first open the GeForce Now app to when you can start a match.
Yes, that includes those boring days when you normally have to wait a long time for a massive patch. For example, this Tuesday (the 17th, pictured above), my son had to wait over 45 minutes for Fortnite to update on his Nintendo Switch while I immediately jumped in and played several solo games.
Does it really work well?
Comparing the Fortnite mobile client to what’s available today on GeForce Now is about as night and day a comparison as you could possibly make. While the mobile version might be impressive due to the scale it can run on mobile hardware, the game isn’t exactly what I’d call “pretty” by modern gaming standards. Even the Nintendo Switch version is better than the mobile version which, given the age of the Switch hardware, should say a lot.
Everything that could be improved has been improved. Object and texture details, drawing distance, effects, shadows and even overall scene clarity. Depending on your phone, the GeForce Now client may or may not display a higher resolution version than the native Fortnite game on Android. In the case of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the native version had a higher resolution than that provided by GeForce Now but, obviously, lacked the detail and overall smoothness of that version.
On the OnePlus Nord N20 – which can only run the game reliably on the low 30 FPS graphics preset – the GeForce Now client sported a higher resolution and all those nice improved details. On the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3, GeForce Now was able to deliver ultra-smooth gameplay at 120 FPS, whereas native clients only offer up to 60 FPS on these phones. These higher frame rates also come with reduced detail and resolution on these phones, so keep that in mind as well.
Also noteworthy is the complete lack of hitching or stuttering on the GeForce Now version, while the Android version of Fortnite regularly has this problem on all phones – some worse than others. Part of the problem with the Android version is that phones need to maintain a certain temperature to be useful. As the game plays and the phone heats up, it has to slow down the CPU and other components to prevent your hand from being burned.
As we’ve noted with several phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC – in this case the Galaxy S22 Ultra – these phones get very hot after just a few minutes of play and can be quite uncomfortable to play without a controller. Meanwhile, even the S22 Ultra only got a tiny bit warm while playing the GeForce Now version of Fortnite. Another victory for the cloud version.
In my experience, both using my home’s mesh Wi-Fi 6 system, as well as public hotspots, latency for the GeForce Now version was virtually non-existent. To me this build felt native in every way and I could never tell you that this thing was running on a server somewhere and then streaming back to my phone screen while playing. Every ISP and every connection will be different, but my experience with a handful of phones — priced between $250 and $1,800 — has been flawless.
Additionally, load times and the time it took to connect to towers were significantly shorter on the GeForce Now version. Often the mobile version of Fortnite that runs on Android takes a little while to load, and sometimes I find myself seeing the Battle Bus as it reaches the end of the map and forcefully drops me off. GeForce Now’s reduced load times aren’t just a convenience here, they’re also a tactical advantage.
Fortnite certainly isn’t the only reason to check out GeForce Now, but it’s the newest, and the native touch controls that have been added to Fortnite are truly impressive. I’ve consistently placed in the top 10 of matches I’ve played with the touch controls – something I wouldn’t have thought possible in the not-too-distant past – and the added visual flair, noticeably longer load times short and even the reduced thermal load on my phone made it a superior experience. Now just to get those gyro controls working and I’ll never look back.