Nvidia And AMD Are At Each Other's Throats Again

Over the weekend, Nvidia said it was cancelling its controversial GeForce Partner Program in the wake of criticism that it was anti-competitive and an attempt to increase the company's hold on the graphics card market. It's the latest development in the ongoing saga of Nvidia and rival manufacturer AMD waging duelling PR campaigns in an attempt to win over PC gamers and other potential customers.

Announced at the beginning of March, the GeForce Partner Program (GPP) was billed by Nvidia as an attempt at "full transparency" so that consumers could make educated buying decisions.

Basically, Nvidia would give extra publicity, early access to new product information, and extra engineering support to hardware companies in exchange for said companies exclusively using GeForce graphics cards throughout a single product line.

PC hardware review site HardOCP was critical of the move and called it "anticompetitive", while rival tech manufacturer AMD followed up in mid-April with a blog post touting "open standards". "We believe that freedom of choice in PC gaming isn't a privilege. It's a right," the company melodramatically proclaimed.

And now, Nvidia has decided to pull the plug on the whole thing.

Even as it shut down the marketing initiative, however, Nvidia continued to defend it. "The choice of GPU greatly defines a gaming platform," it said in the blog post. "So, the GPU brand should be clearly transparent - no substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon. Most partners agreed."

One of those partners was ASUS, which made its flagship "Republic of Gamers" brand Nvidia-exclusive, then in April announced a new "Arez" brand for AMD Radeon graphics cards.

The NVIDIA GTX 1070. Photo: Wikicommons

This was exactly the kind of fragmentation that critics of the GPP were afraid of, although as Nvidia has continually pointed out, PC manufacturers such as ASUS, Acer and others were free to leave the program whenever they wanted. What has remained unclear was the potential consequences for companies who did choose to do so.

While Nvidia pitched the GPP as providing extra benefits, critics such as those at HardOCP have claimed companies who didn't play ball could risk losing access and getting pushed to the back of the line when it came to chip allotments for new shipments.

"What is disturbing is that we have been told that if a company does not participate in GPP, those companies feel as if Nvidia would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories," HardOCP said in a March 8 article, which disclosed up front that the site had been approached by AMD to write about this.

"From all we have talked to, the issue of not allocating GPU inventories to non-GPP partners have not been spelled out contractually, but is rather done on a wink and a nod." While there were no public incidents of this happening during the two months the program was active, it became a rallying point for critics of the GPP.

AMD's new line of Vega graphics cards. Photo: Gizmodo

With the graphics card industry facing an ongoing shortage thanks to the rise of cryptocurrency, Nvidia holding back inventory is a big potential threat. Neither Nvidia nor AMD responded to Kotaku's requests for further comment and instead simply pointed back to their previous blog posts on the subject. A vice president of AMD thanked HardOCP for its articles on the subject following Nvidia's announcement that it was ending the program.

This isn't the first time the companies have fought in a public way. Back in 2014, there was a lot of controversy over the fact that Watch Dogs ran better on PCs that had Nvidia graphics cards than ones which used AMD's GPUs.

An AMD spokesperson blamed the difference on Nvidia's Gameworks program, which they called "a clear and present threat to gamers", alleging it deliberately hurt the performance of AMD graphics cards by encouraging developers to optimise their games for Nvidia's products and reject any input from AMD's engineers. Nvidia's Director of Engineering, Cem Cebenoyan, denied the allegations.

In the years since, the two companies' heated rivalry hasn't cooled down much, especially as AMD, often associated with the economy end of the GPU market, has started to approach parity with Nvidia's GeForce 10 series after launching its own line of Vega GPUs last spring. (Both lines have different advantages and drawbacks, which makes head-to-head comparisons difficult).

Nvidia still controls close to 70 per cent of the graphics card market despite slipping a bit in recent months, but at least in this most recent round of the ongoing feud, AMD has come out on top.


Comments

    If I was to base judgement on this issue on which company has a history of making conspiracy claims with no basis, then this is just another example of AMD spouting crap because it's dominated completely in the PC gaming field.

    It was nice that HardOCP disclosed that AMD got them to write this crap so we can throw their impartiality out the window, and to point out their will be a fair bit of editorializing in their article. All of the scary implications if they talk about nvidia they bring up sound like a standard NDA agreement. Everything else sounds like it's an agreement to co-ordinate on marketing, and then the article goes on to talk about it's main draw being access to a Marketing Development Fund.

    I also love how towards the end of the article he lists the contents of an email he sent to Nvidia, saying he's just being a journalist but he is assuredly going to push the opinion that Nvidia is going to get sued by everyone. Hardly Pulitzer winning journalism. More like Weekly World News stuff.

      That watchdogs issue wasn't conspiracy theories though & the Geforce Program was fragmenting the market.

      And i forgot that Intel were fined millions for abusing it's market dominance to damage AMD's business by dictating what manufacturers could do regarding AMD products, That's hardly conspiracy theories.

    While I certainly don't want NVIDIA to have a monopoly on gaming GPUs, there's a simple solution that AMD are missing: make objectively better price:performance GPUs. Back in the early-mid 2000s, nobody wanted NVIDIA's shitty FX line of GPUs; everyone wanted a Radeon 9800 Pro or similar. Same with how nobody wanted Intel CPUs and AMD was on top - because they offered better performance for a better price. But both Intel and NVIDIA ended up improving their offerings and AMD fell behind, with each successive CPU or GPU offering being underwhelming.

    If they can't beat NVIDIA on performance, then they need to try to beat them on value - but I don't think AMD actually has the capacity to do this. Until they can edge ahead in either area, they're going to play second fiddle to NVIDIA whatever happens. When it comes time to upgrade I'm going to drop my money on the best that I can get within my price range, and that is almost never AMD gear.

      Intel's rise to the top wasn't all innovation, Then theres the fact that they were fined millions in the EU for using their dominance of the market to damage AMD.

      It was only at the Nvidia 900 series generation where what you've said is true, before that AMD has been competitive on price, and in regards the 4xxx, 5xxx and 2xx series, has been faster than Nvidia (the 5xxx series in particular in poignant, for 10 months was faster than competing 2xx and for almost 2 years used less heat (4xx), but could still only muster 40% marketshare).

        Somewhat disagree - NVIDIA's 8x00 line was very competitive with AMD's offerings at the time, the 900 series just turned the tide completely. Since then AMD's efforts have been fairly disappointing. Cryptomining has completely ruined pricing for GPUs, but prior to that I can't see any real compelling reason to pick AMD - and neither can the rest of the market, given their poor market share. Clearly they're doing an inadequate job of catching NVIDIA and I don't think accusations of collusion are an adequate excuse for their performance.

          8xxx lined against AMD 1xxx and 2xxx (not mentioned above and before the 4xxx series).

          As for accusations of collusion, that's a bit far - but there's an incredibly dumb market. We saw that with people buying 260's over most 4xxx and 5xxx cards. Or even today with people buying 1060's over 580's, a card that is generally 10%-15% faster (if at the same price, which sometimes isn't the case).

      It was only at the Nvidia 900 series generation where what you've said is true, before that AMD has been competitive on price, and in regards the 4xxx, 5xxx and 2xx series, has been faster than Nvidia (the 5xxx series in particular in poignant, for 10 months was faster than competing 2xx and for almost 2 years used less heat (4xx), but could still only muster 40% marketshare).

      Pretty much my stance on the issue when people complain about X products dominance when it's really attributed to their product being that much better in either performance and/or price.

      I'd say the CPUs are pretty much on par these days. There's no clear winner now. Buy Ryzen if you do a lot of multi-core, buy Intel if you do a lot of single-core. Video cards are still a bit disappointing from AMD but it depends on what performance/price point you're looking at. The halo products from NVidia seem to have the edge but then it's a tiny fraction of the market. I know I can't afford a $1000+ card (and it's just getting worse). It's a different question down at the $300 market. Pretty much on par there.

      One thing I do find really annoying, and borderline unethical is the way they release a card and three months later when the opposition releases a new competing card they'll release a new driver and miraculously gain 5-10% performance. I feel like they're deliberately gimping cards they're selling to us in order to bluff the opposition. That way they're designing a new card aiming to compete with something that does say 70fps when in reality they're competing with a card that does 80fps.

      Of course the argument is that "it took us this long to fully optimise" but it's awfully convenient how often it happens.

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