NVIDIA’s GeForce Partner Program (GPP) has garnered a lot of controversy over the past two months, with claims of anti-competitive behavior including restrictive contracts that have to be signed by OEM and AIB partners, and allegations of supply restrictions for those that don’t sign on the dotted line.
According to NVIDIA, the company originally created GPP to “ensure that gamers have full transparency into the GPU platform and software they’re being sold.” NVIDIA’s John Temple went on to add:
[The] program means that we’ll be promoting our GPP partner brands across the web, on social media, at events and more. And GPP partners will get early access to our latest innovations, and work closely with our engineering team to bring the newest technologies to gamers…
The program isn’t exclusive. Partners continue to have the ability to sell and promote products from anyone. Partners choose to sign up for the program, and they can stop participating any time. There’s no commitment to make any monetary payments or product discounts for being part of the program.
Once the news broke about GPP and allegations of foul play began swirling, NVIDIA pretty much went into “no comment” mode. However, not hearing NVIDIA’s side of the story in response to the claims has allowed AMD, which has been seen as the biggest loser in all of this, to state its own case in the matter.
AMD’s Scott Herkelman penned a blog post about the topic, which jabbed hard at NVIDIA without once mentioning the company’s name. He then took an even more hostile tone on Twitter, writing:
Many of you told me how our competition tries to use funding and allocation to restrict or block your ability to market and sell Radeon based products in the manner you and your customers desire. I want to let you know that your voices have been heard and that I welcome any others who have encountered similar experiences to reach out to me. Together we can work to ensure that we give gamers what they truly deserve — freedom of choice.
Given that the GPP controversy has now spiraled out of control, NVIDIA is finally responding with full disclosure. For starters, NVIDIA says that there was no malice intended with GPP and that some of the more salacious details like preventing AIBs from selling both AMD and NVIDIA products are completely inaccurate.
“The rumors, conjecture and mistruths go far beyond its intent,” NVIDIA writes in a new blog post. “Rather than battling misinformation, we have decided to cancel the program.”
In other words, NVIDIA has no desire to fight back against and counter every single accusation — it just isn’t worth the company’s time. And rather than have its name dragged through the mud for the foreseeable future, ending the program altogether is the equivalent of ripping the bandage off now. The company goes on to write:
With GPP, we asked our partners to brand their products in a way that would be crystal clear. The choice of GPU greatly defines a gaming platform. So, the GPU brand should be clearly transparent – no substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon.
Most partners agreed. They own their brands and GPP didn’t change that. They decide how they want to convey their product promise to gamers. Still, today we are pulling the plug on GPP to avoid any distraction from the super exciting work we’re doing to bring amazing advances to PC gaming.
In the end, this is a simple case of he-said, she-said, because the some of legalese of the program wasn’t all that clear in the first place. NVIDIA is downplaying the impact of GPP, while AMD clearly claims it has heard from its partners that at least some of the aspects of the program were limiting to its brand in some way. We highly doubt that AMD would take the time to respond with an official blog post on the matter if it received bad information, but stranger things have happened.
NVIDIA’s Claim For The True Intent Of GPP
Conversely, we’ve heard that the intent of GPP was to simply draw more specific and clear lines in OEM product branding, such that at least one brand of product, whether new or existing, could be identified by consumers as powered by GeForce. And if the OEM wanted to carve out a similar AMD-only brand, that was completely in keeping with the program as well. NVIDIA also noted it would continue support for mixed brand offerings as well, underscoring that OEMs were being asked to just define at least one brand line powered exclusively by GeForce. On the surface, this sounds like an approach that’s within NVIDIA’s rights as a supplier and understandable even, given the company’s strong GeForce brand equity.
Regardless, NVIDIA is hoping that everyone will just forget about GPP at this point and think happy thoughts. Turing, anyone?
Update, 2:54PM EST – 5/4/2018: The headline of this article was changed to include the word “alleged,” as the term “misinformation” was a characterization of circumstances by NVIDIA and not author editorial.