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NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal?

An article/editorial on [H]ardOCP takes a critical look at NVIDIA's GeForce Partner Program, saying this "impacts consumer choice," and suggests there may be aspects of the program that are not just anticompetitive, but illegal (thanks NamecaF). The GPP seems to be a typical marketing program, and it does not require participants to exclusively use NVIDIA hardware, but [H]ardOCP says their digging, which they admit was prompted by a suggestion from NVIDIA competitor AMD, turns up a different story:

Admittedly, GPP sounds like a good program on the surface, but after digging into documentation and interviews with OEMs and AIBs in the past weeks, the warm and fuzzies quickly subside. HardOCP has been in the computer hardware review business for over 20 years now, and we have made an abundance of contacts along the way. In order for our preparation to write this article, we have spent the last three weeks talking to OEMs and AIBs in the industry that do business with NVIDIA on a large scale. Given how GPP is all about "transparency," you might think that those OEMs and AIBs would be chomping at the bit to get some free press on how those companies are part of the GPP program.

We have contacted seven companies about their part in NVIDIA GPP and not one of the seven would talk to us on the record if they spoke to us about it at all. The ones that did speak to us have done so anonymously, in fear of losing their jobs, or having retribution placed upon them or their companies by NVIDIA. All of the people that I did interview at AIBs and at OEMs did however have the same thoughts on GPP. 1.) They think that it has terms that are likely illegal. 2.) GPP is likely going to tremendously hurt consumers' choices. 3.) It will disrupt business with the companies that they are currently doing business with, namely AMD and Intel.

The crux of the issue with NVIDIA GPP comes down to a single requirement in order to be part of GPP. In order to have access to the GPP program, its partners must have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce." I have read documents with this requirement spelled out on it.

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24. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 13, 2018, 18:19 RedEye9
 

Kyle from Hardocp spoke with PCWorld Live today
https://www.hardocp.com/news/2018/03/13/pc_world_live
 
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https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report
"Nullity's Law"
There's an easy and fool-proof way to tell if anything related conservative/right-wing/Republican politics is true or not. If anyone calls it "fake news", you can be sure it's the solid truth
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23. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 13, 2018, 01:31 Sepharo
 
Kxmode wrote on Mar 12, 2018, 09:20:
It's called exclusivity and that's been around since video games existed. That said, I am loathed to believe that nVidia having a stanglehold on the video card market is ultimately a bad thing for consumers.

I think you mean, "I'm loath to believe that nVidia having a stranglehold on the video card market is a good thing for consumers."

"loath" means reluctant or unwilling
so your original phrasing conveys that you're unwilling to believe that nvidia dominance is a bad thing... but I get the feeling you do think it's a bad thing
 
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22. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 12, 2018, 09:20 Kxmode
 
It's called exclusivity and that's been around since video games existed. That said, I am loathed to believe that nVidia having a stanglehold on the video card market is ultimately a bad thing for consumers.  
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William Shakespeare's "Star Wars" Act I, Scene 4: CHORUS: And now, dear viewers, shall our play go to \ A Planet stark and drear for our next scene. \ Imagine sand and rocks within thy view. \ Prepare thy souls - we fly to Tatooine!
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21. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 12, 2018, 08:14 Dev
 
killer_roach wrote on Mar 11, 2018, 18:18:
Warskull wrote on Mar 11, 2018, 13:45:
This sounds like a seriously anti-competitive move. The brand is a huge issue. If Nvidia is pushing companies like Asus to stop using the Asus name with AMD cards that is a big issue.

That said, how legal the arrangement is really can't be evaluated clearly until somebody actually tests its limits, whether by creating an AMD-centric sub-brand (which could bring this into the grounds of antitrust if Nvidia tried enforcing their rules based on that) or directly with one of their existing brands (which would effectively rule it moot if Nvidia let it go).

As for the other cases in that decision square, a sub-brand that Nvidia lets go would leave the existing agreement in relatively murky legal ground (albeit much more cleanly defined) and an in-brand effort that Nvidia goes after could potentially be ruled as legitimate by the courts (although such a judgment could provide guidance as to the legal interpretation of the program going forward).

Smartest/shadiest thing NVidia could do is adjust allocation of new cards to minimum to punish someone doing that... hard to prove.
 
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20. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 18:18 killer_roach
 
Warskull wrote on Mar 11, 2018, 13:45:
This sounds like a seriously anti-competitive move. The brand is a huge issue. If Nvidia is pushing companies like Asus to stop using the Asus name with AMD cards that is a big issue.

That said, how legal the arrangement is really can't be evaluated clearly until somebody actually tests its limits, whether by creating an AMD-centric sub-brand (which could bring this into the grounds of antitrust if Nvidia tried enforcing their rules based on that) or directly with one of their existing brands (which would effectively rule it moot if Nvidia let it go).

As for the other cases in that decision square, a sub-brand that Nvidia lets go would leave the existing agreement in relatively murky legal ground (albeit much more cleanly defined) and an in-brand effort that Nvidia goes after could potentially be ruled as legitimate by the courts (although such a judgment could provide guidance as to the legal interpretation of the program going forward).
 
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19. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 14:11 jdreyer
 
digitalwanderer, digi, digisan, Dig, space cadet wrote on Mar 11, 2018, 11:04:
WaltC?!? You wouldn't happen to be an old friend of mine from either nVnews or some other site that hasn't existed in a while...would you?

Go read his old posts. His personality comes through pretty clearly. You might be able to tell if he's the same guy. Also, you can PM him through the Blues website.
 
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The only thing that flat-earthers have to fear is sphere itself.
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18. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 13:45 Warskull
 
This sounds like a seriously anti-competitive move. The brand is a huge issue. If Nvidia is pushing companies like Asus to stop using the Asus name with AMD cards that is a big issue.

Asus has a brand "Republic of Gamers", but let's be honest who even looks at that. The real brand is Asus. Then what about MSI? They don't have additional branding. They just call all their cards MSI.

The accusations that Nvidia is holding back GPUs from manufacturers that don't join the program is a big red flag too.

Plus Nvidia has a history with anti-competitive practices too. Look at how they used gameworks as a way to prevent AMD from seeing games and optimizing them until post-release. They've come close to the line before and they just may have crossed it this time.

Problem is by the time they finally get punished for it, they will have made way more than the penalties. It will be just like when Intel was threatening OEMs to cut all chip discounts if they dared offer AMD CPUs in their products (the Pentium 4 days.) AMD finally had the better product and was positioned to make huge gains. Whatever fines Intel got were piddling. They stopped a competitor from stepping up to their tier.

 
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17. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 11:04 digitalwanderer, digi, digisan, Dig, space cadet, "hey you!"
 
WaltC?!? You wouldn't happen to be an old friend of mine from either nVnews or some other site that hasn't existed in a while...would you?
 
An answer in search of a question
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16. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 10:12 RedEye9
 
Dev wrote on Mar 11, 2018, 04:31:
loomy wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 12:15:
this is typical snip

Except... he actually has a point most of the time.
Has phantom labs ever produced anything yet? Hasn't it been a decade or more?
Wasn't AMD pulling some crap and being deceitful about their latest chip last year? It didn't come anywhere close to beating NVidia, and many of the ones that claimed to be VR, couldn't handle the load.
Wasn't NVidia cheating on benchmarks like a decade ago? (and AMD too as I recall, just not as much).

The funny thing is, I know Kyle is legit, because he gets accused of being Pro NVidia/Anti amd with one review, then the next review he gets accused of being pro amd/anti NVidia, if you get accused of being a fanboy/hater of both sides simultaneously, you probably aren't

Also, their power supply reviews are one of the few that I trust (the others are johnnyguru). Most of the other sites have crap like "well I touched the pins with a voltmeter, and the case is shiny!"
+1
 
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https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report
"Nullity's Law"
There's an easy and fool-proof way to tell if anything related conservative/right-wing/Republican politics is true or not. If anyone calls it "fake news", you can be sure it's the solid truth
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15. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 04:31 Dev
 
loomy wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 12:15:
this is typical kyle. he's vindictive and when a company crosses him he goes after them for years. the bigger story is counting up the number of hit pieces he's done

Except... he actually has a point most of the time.
Has phantom labs ever produced anything yet? Hasn't it been a decade or more?
Wasn't AMD pulling some crap and being deceitful about their latest chip last year? It didn't come anywhere close to beating NVidia, and many of the ones that claimed to be VR, couldn't handle the load.
Wasn't NVidia cheating on benchmarks like a decade ago? (and AMD too as I recall, just not as much).

The funny thing is, I know Kyle is legit, because he gets accused of being Pro NVidia/Anti amd with one review, then the next review he gets accused of being pro amd/anti NVidia, if you get accused of being a fanboy/hater of both sides simultaneously, you probably aren't

Also, their power supply reviews are one of the few that I trust (the others are johnnyguru). Most of the other sites have crap like "well I touched the pins with a voltmeter, and the case is shiny!"
 
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14. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 04:05 NamecaF
 
BIGtrouble77 wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 16:22:
When I worked at Babbages in the late 90's I had to put stickers on all of our games that said "Only works with 3dfx". It was complete bullshit... Nvidia, ATI and Matrox cards also worked perfectly fine at the time when using OpenGl.

Not complete bullshit. I still remember learning that the hard way when I couldn't play Spec Ops: Rangers Lead The Way because it was 3dfx exclusive. You needed a Voodoo graphics card to play it. My Riva TNT wasnt compatible at all. 3dfx did do some exclusive shit like that with Glide. It sucked.
 
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13. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 03:44 mag
 
WaltC wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 18:58:
Wall of text

3dfx had a few years of dominance because it was fast and cheap and cut corners in all the ways that didn't matter so much for games, and because of that Glide had a few exclusives. But OpenGL and Direct3D were both there first.

OpenGL 1.0 was released in 1992.

The first version of Direct3D was July 1996.

The Voodoo1 was released in August 1996.

The first 3d accelerated version of Quake wasn't even for 3dfx cards--it was VQuake for the Rendition Verite V1000 in late 1996.

GLQuake, in 1997, needed to use a wrapper to convert OpenGL calls to Glide calls, since there were enough non-3dfx cards available at the time that supported OpenGL that it made sense to develop it for that primarily (PowerVR and Rendition were the big competitors at the time).
 
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12. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 03:05 Sepharo
 
Mr. Tact wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 16:38:
Babbages -- wow, that caused flash backs. Apparently whatever was left of them was absorbed into GameStop along with Electronics Boutique.

Don't forget FuncoLand too.
 
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11. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 20:04 Rigs
 
WaltC wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 18:58:
One of the biggest walls of text not written by me

I seem to remember DX being a thing in '98, actually. I think it came into it's own around the DX 5.0 and especially the 6.1 releases. Release 7 was big, 8 was ho-hum and 9 just took off and left everything else behind...relatively speaking. (You know, before DirectX could be arbitrarily gated behind Windows releases)

In any case, what were the main api's back then? Glide, D3D, Rendition and...? Did Matrox have it's own? I don't think PowerVR did. It's been so long now, I've started to forget. Shame I couldn't just write it somewhere and then reliably purge the information in my brain to make room for more. Those were the 'wild-west' days of 3D acceleration. Don't get me started on it, I'll never shut up...and then I'll never hear the end of it.

=-Rigs-=
 
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10. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 18:58 WaltC
 
BIGtrouble77 wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 16:22:
Illegal or not, I hate this shit. When I worked at Babbages in the late 90's I had to put stickers on all of our games that said "Only works with 3dfx". It was complete bullshit... Nvidia, ATI and Matrox cards also worked perfectly fine at the time when using OpenGl.

Nvidia is pulling the same shit that was done to them decades ago. I don't have any patience for it and I'm shocked gamers are so quick to defend this kind of stuff. All these types of programs do is attempt to eliminate competition in a very sleazy, cheap way.

Well, at one time all the 3d games you could buy were GLIDE games, and they only ran on 3dfx products (because GLIDE was 3dfx's API, of course.) When 3dfx first began manufacturing "3d" cards there were *no* Windows 3d APIs, and that's why 3dfx invented its own. Indeed, there was widespread speculation that Microsoft was going to buy 3dfx/GLIDE and that it would become the official Windows 3d API. Until 3dfx everything was 2d and that was when the Matrox Millenium was the GPU to have...;) Some companies tried to make their "own" 3d cards, using fledgling APIs, but compared to 3dfx's 15-30 fps capability at the time they were slide shows, literally ~5 fps--or less (ATi prior the ArtX purchase, Matrox, and even Intel with its i7xx series of discrete 3d cards which ran off of AGP system ram in place of using an onboard frame buffer like 3dfx--and several more. They were all so slow at rendering that none of them was an acceptable choice for "3d.")

I had a big GLIDE library in those days. There was no D3d or Windows OpenGL 3d API at the time. (And "OpenGL" derived from SGI served as the foundation for 3dfx's hardware and GLIDE, IIRC, as most of the original 3dfx founders were former SGI employees, again--IIRC). It wasn't until ~3-4 years later, around 2000, that D3d reached feature parity with Glide 3.x when it hit D3d 7, and then people like Carmack were pushing nVidia and OpenGL. A year later 3dfx abandoned GLIDE for D3d, bought a debt-ridden plant in Mexico from STB (had ~$500M in hidden debt, which 3dfx had assumed via the sales contract--*without realizing it*!), and then 3dfx went broke and in the end the pieces were scooped up by nVidia. It was a good lesson on why the tech engineers in a hardware company should Not also serve as its financial managers...;)

There is no law against any IHV selling only nVidia cards or only AMD cards, etc. Giving discounts for exclusive selling (either AMD or nVidia GPUs but not both) is also quite legal and above board for both companies. Volume discounts for both companies are of course quite legal, as well. But the hard fact is that neither nVidia or AMD could afford to pay enough to more than a couple of IHVs to exclusively sell one line of products but not the other. Right now demand for AMD GPUs is through the roof and it is a seller's market for both lines--because neither AMD or nVidia are willing to up production to meet the mining demand or willing to manufacture mining-exlusive GPUs that don't do video output, etc., strictly for miners. So if nVidia is paying IHVs to sell its GPUs exclusively it is costing them an arm and a leg to do it, in some fashion, because any hardware IHV who doesn't sell both cards will be losing a tidy sum...;) As I said, there are a couple of IHVs who do that for AMD and for nVidia, but only a couple. If AMD feels nVidia is being non-competitive then I would expect them to say so.

All that said, nVidia has a reputation among hardware IHVs in China of being pushy and demanding and threatening to affect their supply, but fortunately the IHVs can fight back and call their bluff through deals with AMD, etc. They did with giant Intel, remember, when AMD introduced the k7 (Athlon)--Intel rattled sabres for a long time but the mboard IHVs were not rattled--they upped their cooperation with AMD, instead. Intel soon saw the futility and stopped all of that, and recently paid AMD $1B cash for that long-ago behavior...;) Bottom line: I don't think that any IHV will be put over a nVidia barrel it does not want to be put over.
 
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9. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 17:23 LurkerLito
 
It seems not everyone has actually read the full article.

The bottom line is this and was pointed out in the article:
For example, if ASUS Republic of Gamers (their brand) is in the GPP then ASUS cannot make a Republic of Gamers brand AMD card. Does this mean ASUS cannot have AMD cards? NO it does not. It just cannot be associated with their "Gaming" brand (RoG). The legal question becomes what happens if say for instance ASUS makes a second AMD gaming brand like say Federation of Gamers (this example is from the full article), does this break the GPP agreement because the wording is "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce" so that basically can imply that ASUS might still be able to sell an ASUS AMD card, but maybe it cannot be branded a Gaming card or be associated with any Gaming related brand from the company to fully comply and get the benefits of being in the GPP. That there is dicey shit. Remember ASUS Republic of Gamers is also a motherboard, and if that brand were to comply with the GPP then they would need to disable or rebrand any board that supported an intel chip with a built in AMD graphics on board.
 
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8. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 16:38 Mr. Tact
 
Babbages -- wow, that caused flash backs. Apparently whatever was left of them was absorbed into GameStop along with Electronics Boutique.  
Truth is brutal. Prepare for pain.
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7. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 16:22 BIGtrouble77
 
Illegal or not, I hate this shit. When I worked at Babbages in the late 90's I had to put stickers on all of our games that said "Only works with 3dfx". It was complete bullshit... Nvidia, ATI and Matrox cards also worked perfectly fine at the time when using OpenGl.

Nvidia is pulling the same shit that was done to them decades ago. I don't have any patience for it and I'm shocked gamers are so quick to defend this kind of stuff. All these types of programs do is attempt to eliminate competition in a very sleazy, cheap way.
 
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6. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 13:41 digitalwanderer, digi, digisan, Dig, space cadet, "hey you!"
 
Why does this remind me of the Origin PC/Tier 0 thingy from about 5 years ago? Gosh golly, you don't think JHH would try that again do you?  
An answer in search of a question
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5. Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 10, 2018, 13:05 RedEye9
 
SirKnight wrote on Mar 10, 2018, 13:00:
Nothing but incompetent journalism here. If the author took the time to actually read the GFPP document, he would see this.

This program DOES NOT allow a game to ONLY work on NVIDIA GPUs. Pure misinterpretation. Does this author not know English?
Where did the author state that it would only allow a game to work on nvidia gpu's. I think you misinterpreted something. Do you not know engrish?
 
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https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report
"Nullity's Law"
There's an easy and fool-proof way to tell if anything related conservative/right-wing/Republican politics is true or not. If anyone calls it "fake news", you can be sure it's the solid truth
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