NVIDIA cancels their GeForce Partner Program

NVIDIA’s GeForce Partner Program has been cancelled by the company, a decision that was unexpected. In a blog post on NVIDIA’s website, the company explains that the GPP had good intentions but suffered greatly due to bad press, and as a result had to be cancelled in order for NVIDIA and its partners to avoid the backlash that came with it. The damage however has already been done to the reputations of the partners that elected to participate in this campaign. More to follow after the jump.

In NVIDIA’s blog post titled Pulling the Plug on GPP, Leaning into GeForce, the company admitted that battling the “misinformation” about the program was not what they wanted, and that it was this misinformation that was the reason for the program’s cancellation:

A lot has been said recently about our GeForce Partner Program. The rumors, conjecture and mistruths go far beyond its intent. Rather than battling misinformation, we have decided to cancel the program.

GPP had a simple goal – ensuring that gamers know what they are buying and can make a clear choice.

NVIDIA creates cutting-edge technologies for gamers. We have dedicated our lives to it. We do our work at a crazy intense level – investing billions to invent the future and ensure that amazing NVIDIA tech keeps coming. We do this work because we know gamers love it and appreciate it. Gamers want the best GPU tech. GPP was about making sure gamers who want NVIDIA tech get NVIDIA tech.

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.

This is a great time to be a GeForce partner and be part of the fastest growing gaming platform in the world. The GeForce gaming platform is rich with the most advanced technology. And with GeForce Experience, it is “the way it’s meant to be played.”

The blog post isn’t exactly dripping with enthusiasm about this decision. NVIDIA puts the blame on the program’s end on the misinformation around the program, which to be fair is mostly their fault because they did nothing to address or silence the rumours in the eight weeks since their first blog post about the GPP. The post also notes that NVIDIA asked their partners to brand their products in a way that would be “crystal clear”, but originally the company didn’t specify this. The previous blog post only called for consistency with NVIDIA’s brands and their partner’s brands, and what that meant for their partners was all a guess at that point. An older version of this blog post also included the words “distracting backlash” in the second opening sentence.

The line “no substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon” is particularly confusing given last month’s backlash against the company for allowing partners to equip GeForce GT 1030 cards with DDR4 memory instead of GDDR5, and not specifically calling out this difference on the product boxes or the product names.

As to why the sudden change of heart, it could be as a result of legal troubles behind the scenes for NVIDIA, as well as a possible pending investigation into the GeForce Partner Program by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). A Redditor was contacted by the FTC to learn more about the program after an official complaint was lodged, and was asked to submit more information about the issue for further investigation. EU citizens on the NVIDIA and AMD subreddits had also submitted formal complaints to the European Commission, although there is currently no information on that front.

“Gaming brand aligned exclusively with GeForce”

For those of you still confused, here’s a quick recap if you weren’t following along: the GeForce Partner Program was a way for NVIDIA’s partners to sign up for a partnership that would be more “transparent” to consumers who wanted to know what kind of product they were buying, and this included making some branding changes to intentionally call out what consumers were purchasing. In return, NVIDIA’s partners that signed up to the program would benefit from launch partner status, deeper relationships with their engineering staff, a sizeable financial boost in the form of marketing benefits, and a host of other things that NVIDIA would do on their behalf to make sure their brands got more attention.

“The GeForce Partner Program is designed to ensure that gamers have full transparency into the GPU platform and software they’re being sold, and can confidently select products that carry the NVIDIA GeForce promise.

“This transparency is only possible when NVIDIA brands and partner brands are consistent. So the new 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.

“Partners are signing up, fast. They see the benefit of keeping brands and communication consistent and transparent.

However, rumours out of HardOCP told a different story. HardOCP editor Kyle Bennet received documentation and direct confirmation from AMD and several of NVIDIA’s partners that this deal included, but didn’t publicly state, that the gaming brands of the vendors needed to “align” with NVIDIA’s, which meant that premium brands like ASUS ROG, MSI Gaming, and Gigabyte AORUS needed to be maintained exclusively for NVIDIA’s GeForce lineup, whilst AMD cards would use a lesser brand or no branding at all.

As few partners would go on the record to confirm this publicly, journalists covering the story reached out to NVIDIA for comment and did not receive any. NVIDIA would eventually tell Bennet that the company was “moving on” from the GPP story, indicating that it had no intention of being transparent about a program which promised transparency to consumers.

This resulted in Radeon cards being removed from MSI’s, ASUS’s, and Gigabyte’s premium brands, with ASUS in particular creating the new AREZ brand for Radeon cards specifically. MSI allowed AMD to use the ARMOR, WAVE, Air Boost, and Iron brands instead. It is not clear what will happen now to these newer brands, but any costs incurred in making these switches will likely be swallowed up by NVIDIA’s partners. The AREZ brand, meanwhile, is officially supported by AMD, so it is likely to remain.

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