We suggested that sums of cash regularly changed hands for TWIMTBP branding on top new titles. Here's Still's response, printed in the interests of open dialogue, transparency, good governence, world peace etc.
Thanks very much for your kind words about my resignation from NVIDIA. I have enjoyed the cut and thrust of reading the Inquirer's ironic articles over the last 5 years.
Now that I am an independent voice in the debate, I thought I would take the chance to correct a couple of misconceptions you guys have about TWIMTBP, as I know you would hate to have any inaccuracies in your articles - Hey, look, I can do irony too! 8-)
Firstly, you cleverly crossed out cash - I assume a joke about the size of my cheque book. In my five years at NV I was responsible for bringing 120+ titles into the TWIMTBP fold. Do you know how many of those actually received a payment of any kind? The answer is ONE. And that was a special case where we ran a promotion aimed at a mass market family title to try and encourage low end consumers to shun integrated graphics in favour of GPU's. We paid a contribution towards the time involved in making nice shader things happen.
Sure, we ran advertising for a dozen titles in the first 2 quarters of the campaign, as we aligned it to a campaign at retail to teach consumers to recognise what GPU, aswell as what CPU, they had, so they could then be surer of compatibility issues. But those ads were short lived and low cost.
So not if TWIMTBP did not have cash as a cornerstone then what was it?
How about the $M's the company spent building a completely state of the art test lab in Eastern Europe. So that developers and publishers can get their titles tested on around 500 different PC configurations (GPU, CPU, OS, Motherboard, API etc etc). Yes, compatibility. It was not about benchmarking or running faster that ATi. It was about making sure the consumer could buy the game and run it without crashes. Every time a gamer takes a PC version of a game back to the store and says "It doesn't work, give me the console one" NVIDIA potentially loses a customer.
Once that was established, the great team of engineers NVIDIA has in Europe would work frame by frame with the developer to analyse glitches, slowdown and bugs and help fix them (at the developer and and in NV's drivers). That alone was usually enough to lift the framerate above the other lot. Just good, solid due care and attention.
The Tomb Raider issue you mention was the exception that absolutely proved the rule. The issue you reported lasted for one day, before NVIDIA brought out a driver that fixed it. Of course we were not good enough to fix it in a day, we had been fixing it for weeks. We were just a day late this time, so it was noticed. That type of issue happened many times. Tomb Raider was the only time that the game shipped ahead of the driver fix that meant nobody noticed the problem had been there at all. That's how good we were!
So, once a game clears the lab and gets the green light, it then gets the NVIDIA messaging that its a title we recommend our consumers to consider buying.
The two biggest ways this messaging is carried is:
a) The Nzone website. 11 million hits per month across 7 natural language sites. Push the buttton marked "Test my system" and we fully compare our test results against the users PC to see if the game will run at minspec, recommended and optimum. We tell them exactly what hardware they need to run it best (not just GPU, but memory, all sorts) and then we link them to local etailers where they can get a special deal on the game or a game hardware mix.
b) and this is where I guess my biggest legacy lays within NVIDIA. "The Way" magazine, which I created as a 40,000 print run, 8 page supplement in Edge magazine and ran within Europe for the first 10 issues, building to a 32 page, 7 language magazine with just short of 1 million units printed. The Way was always written by independent journalists, so whilst never critical of partner titles (they wouldn't get in if they did not deserve to), it never became a corporate brochure, but always remained an interesting read. It was nominated for a number of awards, publishers are very keen for their titles to be featured and I was recently told by an MD of a major distributor than he used The Way magazine as his guide to what titles he should focus on in his consumer offerings. I will be very proud when my new companies offerings are considered technically excellent enough to be featured in the future issues.
So there you have it. TWIMTBP in a nutshell. If you can understand and trust what I say here (and I have no reason to lie to you), you will see that the dirt thrown at it by a thoroughly defeated ATi over the years were so far off the mark they were laughable.
In fact I would go as far to say that one of the main reasons TWIMTBP was so damn damaging to them was that they simply never understood it. What is stood for, what it intended to do, they simply saw it as a threat that had to be dismissed. They grabbed the first (incorrect) facts that came to hand and simply threw them time and time again, however often they proved incorrect and however badly they were getting hurt. MO< So my parting message to the Inquirer is, for goodness sake, do not repeat their mistakes. Don't keep spouting the same old "It's only cash, NVIDIA bought developers, and shock horror, Game x ran 2FPS faster on ATi (just before it blue screened) so could not be TWIMTBP anyway" rubbish.
The inaccuracies did for ATi, and when repeated on these pages, do you guys no credit either.
Good luck. I hope we come across each other in future.
So there you have it. Interesting stuff indeed. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ