AMD Adds Battlefield 4, SimCity to "Never Settle" Radeon Bundle, Expands to APUs -- But Is The Program Working?
It's not surprising to see EA and AMD teaming up, since BF4 was demoed on Team Red hardware about ten days back, but the "Never Settle" program deserves a closer look. Since late October, AMD has been aggressively bundling and promoting the Radeon family as shipping with coupons for popular, top-tier games. The first package launched with coupons for Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs.
Since then, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, and BioShock Infinite have all been offered through the NS promotion. There's even evidence that the company is going to widen the program to include A10/A8 APUs with more casual offerings, like EA's SimCity. (In this case, waiting probably improves the chances that gamers will see the option as a positive).
Never Settle is interesting because it's one of the few visible positive changes Rory Read has made since taking over as CEO. It's a great deal for gamers -- but the impact on AMD's sales is less clear. We've heard from retailers that the NS bundles have helped move enthusiast cards in the HD 7900 family, with the HD 7800 GPUs receiving a smaller boost.
Unfortunately, there's evidence that these sales boosts haven't been strong enough to offset Nvidia's increased market share or a general downturn in the entire AIB (add-in board) market. According to Jon Peddie Research, the discrete market split between AMD and Nvidia has been shifting towards Team Green for the past three quarters.
Total discrete sales, meanwhile, have continued to fall. JPR estimates that Q4 2012 sales fell 17.3% compared to Q3 2012 and 10% compared to Q4 2011. Given that Q1 sales are typically lower than Q4 sales across the board, and with the entire PC market in the doldrums, it may be exceptionally difficult to see any positive impact from Never Settle, even when Q1 figures are available a few weeks hence.
A Few Tweaks Might Not Hurt:
Despite this, I think Never Settle is still a good idea. AMD is putting its GPU technology front-and-center on the PC side, while talking up console wins in the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox Durango. It's a good way to build long-term brand strength, particularly given that many of the games AMD is sponsoring have been well-reviewed and extremely popular.
On the other hand, there's got to be a reason why "Gaming Evolved" has crept past "TWIMTBP." After a decade of heavy sponsorship, NV has been curiously absent from a number of recent launches. Whether that's due to a quieter affiliate program or a strategic decision to allocate more resources towards Project Shield isn't clear. If "Gaming Evolved" is part of a cross-platform strategy designed to build GCN support across the PS4, Xbox Durango, and PC, it may make more sense for AMD to be a tighter partner in this arena.
The one thing I'd change about the Never Settle program is to add flexibility regarding game titles. The problem with pre-sponsoring BF4 as an upcoming game is that it means players who know they'll purchase it now have to choose between pre-order benefits from various companies and getting a coupon for the game from AMD.
Ideally, AMD could offer redemption codes that weren't tied to a single title. Buy a 7790 now, and get a coupon you can use for BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, or Battlefield 4 when it ships later this year. That way, a gamer could pick up a new card today without worrying about synchronizing a GPU purchase with a specific game.