NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program — what is happening?

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NVIDIA is at the top of their game right now. They have the largest cut of the GPU pie, and they actually have top-end GPUs that AMD’s current lineup is just unable to match. However the recent NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program has been scrutinized by HardOCP, and they have found quite a few worrying points.

Lack of transparency

If you read NVIDIA’s blog post, they actually mentioned transparency twice in the article. However as Kyle Bennett of HardOCP found out, transparency is hard to find. He mentioned that OEMs and AIBs are mostly keeping mum about the terms of the GeForce Partner Program. Those who did speak up didn’t have anything positive to say. No idea how that will give gamers the confidence needed to make their purchase.

Gaming brand aligned exclusively with GeForce

This was first mentioned in HardOCP’s report. Apparently it meant GeForce Partners cannot sell competitor GPUs under their gaming labels. That means Republic of Gamers for ASUS, Gaming X for MSI and AORUS for Gigabyte. MSI has Gaming X and Gigabyte has AORUS. Jason Evangelho has written on Forbes regarding how he couldn’t find Gaming X-branded AMD graphics cards. I double-checked MSI’s website just to be sure, and true enough, there aren’t any Gaming X GPUs listed. Even the Radeon RX 580 apparently doesn’t get a Gaming X variant. Meanwhile the weaker GeForce GTX 1050 comes in a Gaming X flavor. However if you do a Google search for the Radeon RX 580 Gaming X, you will find the page listing it. So it’s removal from the listing is definitely quite recent.

Can you spot the difference?

Evangelho also noted the lack of the AORUS branding on the RX 580 Gaming Box. Gigabyte’s Gaming Boxes are external GPU enclosures, and variants containing NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 GPUs had the AORUS branding.

While this is possibly due to Gigabyte wanting to reserve the branding for high end graphics solutions, the standalone Radeon RX 580 graphics card from Gigabyte is available with the AORUS branding. Probably a bit of confusion on Gigabyte’s end, but when reached for confirmation, Gigabyte told ComputerBase.de that the Radeon RX 580 is not targeted at gamers. Curious, because it is a Gaming Box. I do not know of a gaming console targeted at non-gamers.

I did take a look at ASUS’ website, and their ROG Strix Radeon cards are still available. So perhaps ASUS hasn’t hopped onto the bandwagon, yet.

[UPDATE]: We have received word that ASUS has already been on the program for months already. The ROG X G-Shock promotion is apparently a part of the GeForce Partner Program.

On the other hand, NVIDIA did mention in the blog post that this program isn’t exclusive, and partners will still be able to sell and promote products from anyone. Of course, that’s what MSI and Gigabyte are doing, but just not under their gaming label.

Partners will see benefits withdrawn if non-compliant

NVIDIA dangles quite a few carrots for GeForce Partners. Among those identified by HardOCP are:

  • high-effort engineering engagements
  • early tech engagements
  • launch partner status
  • game bundling
  • sales rebate programs
  • social media and PR support
  • marketing reports
  • Marketing Development Funds

And of course, you are either in, or you are out. Imagine if you are now an OEM, and you suddenly find that your competition can get first dibs to the latest GPUs and start developing products earlier than you, bundle more free games, get free marketing and offer their products at a cheaper price than you can, all simply because they signed on a dotted line to exclusively market GPUs from a certain chipmaker in their gaming brand. As much as you are a supporter of the underdog, you would still sign up pretty soon. It is also alleged that NVIDIA will cut down on GPU supply if you do not join as a GeForce Partner.

As a gamer and hardware enthusiast, I can’t understand why would the leader resort to these underhanded tactics. They have and probably will be still very much ahead of the curve, but this program is pretty weird. We would still have to see how this GeForce Partner Program benefits gamers. One of the chief concerns from brands is that these practices will hurt consumer choices, which is definitely not going to benefit gamers.

Pokdepinion: NVIDIA would have done better to just focus on developing GPUs that are unbeatable by AMD…