Graphics cards and computing hardware is big business. Really big business. So much so that Intel has been caught red-handed being anti-competitive in the past. Now, it looks like it might be Nvidia’s turn to being the bad actor. Its recently announced GeForce Partner Program had many in the technology journalism field worried about what it could mean. While the full results won’t yet be known for some time, it seems that some signs of corporate intimidation have already emerged.
The GeForce Partner Program was first revealed two weeks ago. Kyle Bennett from Hard OCP was the first to bring up concerns about its substance. Despite all the talk about “transparency” and helping customers make a clear choice about the products they’re buying, it became clear that it could be much more about restricting consumer choice. Why’s that you ask?
Essentially, the documentation showed that manufacturing partners of Nvidia’s graphics card products, such as ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI (the big three) must have exclusive branding for Nvidia products only. Basically, the customer’s choice is transparent and clear. If there’s no choice, then I’ll just have to buy that one.
It’s not just that, the partners themselves might also face some losses in their efforts if they don’t sign up to the program; namely engineering support, rebate programs, marketing support and even money in the form of Marketing Development Funds. Those are certainly big incentives for third party manufacturers to sign up.
Kyle Bennett is one of the few in the tech press who has expressed his concerns. Not just that, he confirmed that nobody is willing to talk to him from any of the involved companies. The silence is resounding, and unless something official comes out about the GeForce Partner Program, it tells a certain story.
More evidence that Nvidia’s program has brought silence and compliance has come out. Gigabyte has released external graphics card boxes. However, the Nvidia graphics card gets the AORUS branding, while AMD’s version is simply generic. Reddit user evernessince posted some examples of what appears to be previously AORUS branded products now only carrying generic Gigabyte branding, with Radeon versions removed from sale. Essentially, AORUS is now Nvidia exclusive.
South Africa’s NAG Online has also done some digging into this. It found that ASUS has removed Republic of Gamers branding from its Radeon products and those are also not for sale anymore on Amazon and Newegg. Radeon products still exist, but have been relegated to the company’s Dual and lower “level” branding. MSI has also made some changes, similar to Gigabyte and Asus.
The most immediate result of the GeForce Partner Program seems to be the removal of higher end third party Radeon products from three manufacturers. This sucks for consumer choice. It remains unclear whether ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI might create a new Radeon brand to compete against their existing GeForce products. If they do, the new brand will have a huge uphill battle. Could this loom as a new legal stoush between the graphics behemoths?