Cameron Wilmot's bit:
We are angry; don't make any doubts about it. We are and have been angry with NVIDIA and many of its employees for many years. I could literally go on for pages about the colorful history between NVIDIA and TweakTown. The events of today prompted us to prepare a public response to NVIDIA's latest actions against us. We think it's high time that everyone knows how NVIDIA operate when the game gets heated.
First a little summary for those just tuning in now. TweakTown and NVIDIA once enjoyed a fruitful manufacturer / media relationship that worked really well. Old NVIDIA employees back in the day knew how to treat media people with respect and not carry some type of arrogant attitude that seems like a prerequisite for some (not all) NVIDIA employees these days. Our issues with NVIDIA started with not being invited to media events and later not being review sampled on various GPU launches. Sure, back then, we weren't a leading technology website as we are today, but we weren't a small fish either.
This went on for years and we were put into a position where if we wanted a launch day review of a new GPU, we really had to fight for it, beyond on what we thought was reasonable. We had to work with NVIDIA partners to get a review sample if we wanted one at all. After countless anger fueled emails to NVIDIA, we eventually realized we were fighting a losing battle. It and the associated anger and stress was just a waste of our time and surely wasn't healthy for our wellbeing. We decided at some point (I can't remember exactly) that we would just acquire samples early on our own and post the reviews when we wished. We were not under NDA by NVIDIA - heck, they'd need to have a working open dialogue with us for that to even happen.
We enjoyed massive surges in website traffic every time we posted an NDA-free review, usually one or two weeks ahead of the actual NVIDIA launch day. I've said it before, but I don't know if I've said it many times publically, but this was not to alienate our friends from other websites and magazines, and it certainly was not done out of disrespect. Some of our media friends understand the situation and others want our heads on a platter. Those in the latter category need to realize that NVIDIA could have solved this issue by supporting us just the same as any other key media partner they work with. We were not looking for any type of special treatment - just not to be treated like worthless dogs. We were put into a position where we had no other choice. Case in point right here: Shane Baxtor (our VGA editor) moved to Taiwan at the end of 2011. We contacted Melody Tu who is the local PR person looking after things for NVIDIA in the Asian region. We asked her to meet up for a meeting to try and resolve our issues. Her response was that she was "too busy" to meet us. Too busy? Fair enough.
NVIDIA's response on our early release of reviews was to prevent certain video card vendor partners from sending us video cards. I recall Galaxy being one of the first and in more recent times GIGABYTE was told not to send us samples. NVIDIA must have suspected the aforementioned companies of supplying us with video cards early and supposedly assume they have no respect for the NVIDIA NDA. But that's not true; any partner NDA we receive or told about is honored. Much like with our recent MSI GTX 660 Ti coverage - we were told the NDA and adhered to it, we even posted the review two or three minutes later to be on the safe side.
That is why it was such a shock for Shane Baxtor and I to receive an email from the MSI Marketing Department this morning. After reading the email, I instantly knew that NVIDIA had contacted MSI before hearing anything else and applied its usual pressure. The type of pressure I am talking about is threats of cutting GPU allocation to MSI if they continue to work with TweakTown. We've heard it before and we'll hear it again. Now I'm not sure if I'm lost in translation or whatever, but as far as I see, MSI is a customer of NVIDIA. NVIDIA is not a customer of MSI. They both ultimately make money together at the end of the day, but without MSI, NVIDIA would make less money than they do when we talk about GPU shipments. MSI of recent years has produced maybe the best NVIDIA GEFORCE partner video cards that we've tested and we have worked with MSI on these reviews for a long time, so it baffled us to receive the email from them. The email basically said that MSI could no longer support us with video card review samples. The latest update is that MSI will continue to support us with video card samples, after a long discussion between MSI and TweakTown today.
The thing about this email that doesn't make much sense is the fact that it claims that we broke the MSI NDA. That wasn't the case; as I mentioned above, we posted the recent review of the MIS GTX 660 Ti Power Edition a couple minutes after the NDA expired and in the past we haven't broken other MSI video card NDAs. It must be that NVIDIA assume because our first retail video card review of the new GTX 660 Ti was of an MSI product, that it must have been MSI who supplied it to us early. We aren't too sure what proof they have to go along with those claims. It seems like NVIDIA is just going after MSI (and other partners) because they can or they don't know what else to do.
This is ultimately how NVIDIA treats its partners, like shit. It's these strong-arm tactics by NVIDIA that make us incredibly mad. Now we understand that NVIDIA needs to protect their products and the interests of the company, but MSI didn't do anything wrong. Yet this is how they (and other partners) are treated. I am sure many will be shocked, and rightfully so. If we could write everything we hear about what GPU partners say about NVIDIA, you'd be shocked even more. But in the interest of those who tell us these stories, we won't.
It goes further though and this one we just have to publish...grab some popcorn. I remember earlier this year we had a face to face meeting with a certain NVIDIA GPU partner and they told us that they had developed a really kick-ass new video card cooler, but NVIDIA told them that they could not use it, as it was "too much better" than NVIDIA's own reference design cooler. Now this is where you the consumer comes in - NVIDIA blocking an awesome cooler that you could have bought and utilized because it is too much better than its own... WTF? Yeah, right. We weren't impressed one little bit either.
NVIDIA is out to stop our early GEFORCE reviews. This article is for you, our lovely readers; we want you all to be fully up to speed on what is happening behind the scenes. We are not done yet NVIDIA. Expect us.
Shane Baxtor's bit:
Cameron had to write this article for the reason that I couldn't bring myself to doing it without a bunch of expletives being present the whole time.
In the last hour, though, talking to a couple of other partners, it's become clear to me that NVIDIA are using this tactic on other GPU vendor partners. The difference is that they respect TweakTown and people like Cameron and me to not just simply go off the word of one person.
One of the first things I asked MSI was, "did we break NDA on the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition?" and when they replied with "No", it pretty much summed up the email from MSI as something that was put together quickly and in fear.
After much deliberation with MSI, though, the issue seems to be sorted, at least to a degree. Clearly we have an underlying issue with NVIDIA, though, who continue to throw their weight around whenever they can. For some silly reason, though, we continue to reach out to NVIDIA and try to make peace. Now that we're getting to the end of the GTX 600 series with only a few more models coming, all of a sudden they want to start being a bit more helpful.
Working together with NVIDIA on the GTX 600 series isn't going to happen. They can't expect to treat us with no respect when it comes to the high-end models and all of a sudden want to play nice when it comes to the lower end models. Maybe they will choose to offer us full support on the next generation of video cards, maybe they won't.
I've said this before and I'll say it again; for a long time we wanted no more than any other media when it came to NVIDIA support. Discovering our strength since being based out of Taiwan now, though, we expect a higher level of treatment. What's the worst case for us? We continue to release reviews without an NDA signed and reap the benefits that the traffic brings in and helps us grow bigger and bigger.