Nvidia has just released a new Game Ready graphics driver that's available via its website—and that may be one of the last times you see that combination of words together. The driver is version 358.50, is certified by Microsoft's WHQL process, and includes updates for Star Wars Battlefront, among other things.
Driver releases like this one aren't going away, but they are moving away from general availability via the web. Starting in mid-December, Nvidia has decided to release future Game Ready driver updates only via its GeForce Experience software, the client program that runs on the user's local PC and provides a suite of features including optimized settings for games, various sorts of streaming support, and automatic driver updates. Using the GFE software to grab the latest drivers will require GeForce owners to register with Nvidia by providing a valid e-mail address, as well. No password is required.
This change is pretty clearly marketing-driven. GeForce owners who register via GeForce Experience will begin receiving emails from Nvidia about contests, promotions, game key giveaways, and that sort of thing. Users who would prefer not to receive those messages will be able to opt out, though.
Those folks who wish to download drivers from the web will still be able to do so, but they will only get access to the major quarterly driver updates. Those larger updates are meant to be the ones that bring new features and changes that affect more than the very latest game releases.
Since Game Ready drivers will be "exclusive to GeForce Experience," they will not be available via Windows 10's automatic update service. Microsoft has been more aggressive about making drivers available via this channel—which seems like the best possible home for automatic driver refreshes—but evidently only the quarterly GeForce driver releases will be pushed out through it.
Interestingly enough, Nvidia says that "mid to high 90%" of its driver download traffic comes through GFE today, so the company doesn't expect this new arrangement to change anything for the majority of its customers.
GeForce Experience is getting some additional updates to go along with its new status as the exclusive home of Game Ready drivers. The GameStream feature, which lets users stream gaming sessions from a PC to an Nvidia Shield device over a network, is adding support for 4K resolutions at 60 FPS with 5.1 surround sound. That sort of fidelity will surely require a very fast local network. Also, GFE is adding support for streaming to both Twitch and YouTube Live at 1080p60. To give you some idea of the network requirements there, the enhanced Twitch streaming will require a 9Mbps upstream connection.
Today's GeForce 358.50 driver also adds support for the OpenGL 2015 ARB extensions and for OpenGL ES 3.2, and it includes new capabilities for use with the GameWorks VR SDK.
In addition to today's updates, Nvidia tells us it has a series of Game Ready drivers in the works to support the big game releases expected during the upcoming holiday season.