NVIDIA GPP Ignites Uproar & Calls for Boycott as AIBs Begin Signing on
PC gamers have been on-edge ever since Kyle Bennett of HardOCP published his chilling report about NVIDIA's allegedly anti-competitive GeForce Partner Program. The investigative report alleges that NVIDIA's new program, dubbed GPP, demands that graphics card makers and OEMs align their gaming brands -- MSI Gaming, Asus ROG and Gigabyte AORUS for example -- exclusively with the company. In other words, it requires add-in-board partners to drop AMD from their gaming brands.
The report further claims that graphics card makers and PC builders who do not join NVIDIA's GPP are denied "high-effort engineering engagements -- early tech engagement -- launch partner status -- game bundling -- sales rebate programs -- social media and PR support -- marketing reports ".
To put it bluntly, if the allegations are accurate, NVIDIA's GPP makes it so that OEMs and card makers that don't join the program are put at a crippling disadvantage that would render them almost entirely unable to compete in the PC gaming market with other OEMs that do join the program.
It's important to note that to date, NVIDIA denies these allegations.
NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Allegedly Hurting Consumer Choice - Evidence Suggests Some AIBs May Have Already Joined
Now that we got that brief recap out of the way, let's delve into a very interesting development. As of last week, gamers have been noticing a very peculiar trend beginning to occur with MSI and Gigabyte that suggests they might have joined NVIDIA's GPP. These occurrences may qualify as very direct examples of how NVIDIA's GPP may have already begun hurting consumer choice, as Bennett's report warned it would.
Let's start with Gigabyte, the company recently launched a new gaming graphics enclosure powered by an AMD Radeon RX 580. Unlike Gigabyte's previous enclosures which carry the AORUS brand, Gigabyte's premium gaming brand, this enclosure only gets a generic Gigabyte sticker.
Later, when Gigabyte was asked about this strange decision, the company made a bizarre statement saying this external graphics enclosure isn't for gamers, despite the fact that Gigabyte is branding it a "Gaming Box", go figure.
"ComputerBase asked Gigabyte why the model with Radeon RX 580 is the only in the series which does not come with the "Aorus" gaming branding. The manufacturer states that the product is not gamer focused. This however is inconsistent with the product page, whose headings are "Turn Your Ultrabook to Gaming Platform" and "Upgrade the Game Experience"
As I've mentioned earlier, these strange developments weren't limited to Gigabyte, MSI has also seemingly removed all previously available MSI GAMING AMD Radeon graphics cards off their their website and only left the lower tier ARMOR cards.
Jason Evangelho of Forbes writes :
When viewing the MSI products page for AMD GPUs, however, their "Gaming X" branded Radeon cards are conspicuously absent. All that remains are reference versions of Polaris 500 series and Vega cards, or MSI's "Armor" lineup. That's beyond interesting.
NVIDIA GPP Ignites Anger & Calls For Boycott Among PC Gamers
Suffice to say, after the HardOCP report was made public immediate backlash ensued. Anger and even calls for boycott of NVIDIA and its GPP partners erupted in PC hardware and gaming communities on forums, facebook, reddit and all over the techsphere. [1,2,3,4,5,6]. Some have gone as far as contacting the Federal Trade Commission and EU Commission to file legal complaints.
A wccftech.com reader summed up his views on the whole GPP situation in a succinct message that he sent us a couple of days ago. Shaun Fosmark writes :
(Disclaimer : The statement contained herein represents the personal views of Mr. Fosmark and not necessarily those of wccftech.com)
"Here's the deal with the GPP.
It has nothing to do with performance. That's a ridiculous notion. What it does have to do with is market control. AIB control. You see, all of the things in the GPP all of these AIBs already had access to. You can be assured that Nvidia was already doing everything it could to make sure these AIBs were putting out the best Geforce they could. That is, up until now where it has grown large enough, fast enough to shrug off that necessity. The GeForce 1080 launch was a show of power to these AIBs. It was designed to say "we dont need you at all, you need us" when they launched their "founders" edition cards weeks before their AIBs could. You can be dammed sure these AIBs got the message and werent going yo let that happen again.
Enter the GPP. This isnt an agreement that says "heres a list of all you GET" by joining up, is says "heres everything we will TAKE AWAY if you don't sign this contract and do what we say". It says " We expect you to align with our brand from here on out and drop radeon from any of your premium branding completely if you want to launch cards when we launch, got it?".
This leaves AIBs with a hard decision. Now Asus's parent company is working around it by switching radeon products to asrock, which itself enjoys a position of power tier in the premium lineup. These other companies dont even have that option. What they will resort to is having to simply name radeon products exactly what they are, just whatever branding AMD has with no affiliation to any of their premium gaming brands. Regardless of performance this makes it impossible for AMD to present any of their products in an equal light to consumers and this is exactly what Nvidia intends. To make it impossible for AMD to ever compete now, and in the future by placing market controls in place that make it very difficult to."
MSI Rep Admits to Company Joining NVIDIA GPP, Infers Lack of Choice Over Matter
Much to the dismay of many MSI fans, a representative inadvertently confirmed in a reply to a user on facebook that the company had joined NVIDIA's GeForce Program. He also inferred that the company didn't have much of a choice over the matter.
The whole situation is quite depressing to say the least if you're an AIB. Overnight they have found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Their choices were either to join the GPP and face the backlash, or not and end up at a severe competitive disadvantage versus every other NVIDIA partner. Damned if you, damned if you don't. This is the reality that NVIDIA has created with its GeForce Partner Program, if the allegations are true and they seem to be.