A very interesting and perhaps controversial new report has been published over at HardOCP, penned by their editor in chief Kyle Bennett. The story concerns Bennett's investigations into the new Nvidia GeForce Partner Program (GPP) and its ramifications for the industry, and ultimately, for consumers. After some digging though the Nvidia GPP T&Cs and talking to various AIBs and OEMs, Bennett suggests that Nvidia is seeking to benefit from its almost-monopoly position in gaming graphics and to effectively force AIBs to choose between being a close partner with Nvidia, or facing various less favourable trading circumstances outside the partnership.
On the surface the Nvidia GPP sounds like a positive thing. Nvidia says that it has been formulated "to better serve gamers". Nvidia talks a lot about branding and how the program is open and free for anyone to join, furthermore it is said to be transparent and non-exclusive. However, HardOCP discovered that AIBs and OEMs were strangely reluctant to talk about GPP.
Exclusive alignment requirement
Digging further and talking to seven companies about the new Nvidia GPP, Bennett found some likely thorny issues with it. One main condition of being in the Nvidia GPP is that the partner company has to have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce." Without confirming that Asus ROG is one of the worried AIBs, it is a good example of a big AIB and OEM which currently offers both Nvidia and AMD GPU based graphics cards and systems.
Most importantly if you do not align your company and sign up to be an Nvidia GPP you will miss out on the following exclusive benefits:
- High-effort engineering engagements
- Early tech engagement
- Launch partner status
- Game bundling
- Sales rebate programs
- Social media and PR support
- Marketing reports
- Marketing Development Funds (MDF)
HardOCP's editor reckons the last bullet point is a very important consideration for AIBs and OEMs. However, most of these benefits, should they be withdrawn from a partner, look like they could have financially painful consequences.
A recent promo for GeForce GTX graphics cards
Holding back inventory for NPP members?
Another disturbing consequence that AIBs or OEMs could face, outside of the NPP, is that "Nvidia would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories". HardOCP didn't find this condition or consequence officially in any Nvidia T&Cs or similar documents but it reports that several potential partners indicated that this would be the case - signalled to them by Nvidia via a "wink and a nod".
Giving context to this story, the Nvidia GPP is likened to Intel's inglorious historical practices which ended with the firm facing multi-million dollar anti-competitive fines - though it dominates the PC CPU industry and such amounts could be seen as collateral damage to achieve htat dominance.
The concerns of the HardOCP editor over GPP, and a request for its signed-up partner list, were sent to Nvidia on 22nd Feb 2018 but any response is yet to arrive. Hopefully some of the concerns can be answered and even rebuffed clearly by Nvidia in the coming days. I think it will really have to say and do something, as some of the concerns could be of interest to bodies such as the Federal Trade Commission in the US, or the EU Competition Authority over this side of the pond.