Why Everyone Should Chill Out About Origin PC Dropping AMD GPUs

Much has been made of boutique PC builder Origin PC’s decision to no longer offer AMD GPUs in its systems, thereby giving NVIDIA all the love. We posted about it earlier, ourselves, and since then, there’s been much hullabaloo about why Origin is doing this, what NVIDIA may have offered them to dump AMD, and so on. But everybody just needs to chill out about the whole thing. Here’s why:

First, in terms of the negative impact this could have on AMD, it won’t be much. With respect to Origin, it isn’t that large a company or customer in the grand scheme of things, and they're not even doing away with AMD CPUs, so that part of the revenue will keep flowing regardless. AMD is a huge company with a multitude of vectors for revenue--for example, both the PS4 and Xbox One, not to mention its latest get with Verizon. AMD will be just fine.
AMD Radeon HD 7990
AMD Radeon HD 7990

Besides that, if Origin CEO Kevin Wasielewski wants to drop AMD GPUs, he’s well within his right to do so. It’s his company. He says his reasons are as follows: “Primarily the overall issues have been stability of the cards, overheating, performance, scaling, and the amount of time to receive new drivers on both desktop and mobile GPUs.” Note that these reasons are essentially subjective; he’s not providing hard numbers, but he doesn’t have to, because--it’s his company.

Some think it’s odd that he felt the need to let some members of the media (us included) know about the decision, but it makes sense, sort of. A PC builder dropping AMD is a big move; we cover these companies, so it’s noteworthy. Otherwise, everyone would suddenly be asking where the AMD GPU options were on Origin’s system configurations.

Origin PC Genesis
Origin PC Genesis

No, the issue, as some have painted it out to be, is whether or not Wasielewski is stretching the truth about his reasons--i.e., if NVIDIA paid him to dump AMD. There is indeed plenty of reason for suspicion; for one thing, it does seem like kind of a bizarre move to cut out AMD, and for another, Origin just scored what is likely a lucrative partnership with NVIDIA to make the latter’s new Battleboxes (along with Maingear, Digital Storm, and Falcon Northwest mind you).

One plus one is two, right? Except there’s no clear indication that anything untoward transpired. Kevin Wasielewski denies that NVIDIA paid him to drop AMD GPUs, as does NVIDIA. We asked NVIDIA the following questions: “Has NVIDIA ever directly paid Origin or any other OEM to drop a competitive GPU product? Did NVIDIA pay Origin PC to make the statements that the company's founder made regarding the reasons they decided to drop AMD's GPU line?”

NVIDIA’s Brian Burke replied unequivocally: “The answer to both questions is no.”

Further, no one else has said that they’re not offering AMD GPUs, not even the other companies that are making Battleboxes, so if NVIDIA has a master plan to buy businesses off, it’s not working very well. It wouldn’t make much sense for NVIDIA to employ that as a tactic, anyway.

What is most likely going on here is that NVIDIA gave Origin a better deal on GPUs than AMD did, and/or sweetened the relationship by giving Origin part of the Battlebox pie. Wasielewski was less than thrilled with AMD for any variety of reasons, whether subjective or objective. He also felt that he could afford to get rid of the latter's GPUs and roll out an announcement to the press about it.

Wasielewski made a business decision; whether it was a good business decision is certainly up for debate, but that doesn't mean there was necessarily skullduggery. For our money, as we said, it seems unwise to burn any bridges with a company as important to the enthusiast and gaming market as AMD, but then again, we don’t run Origin PC.

Update 10/7/13, 10:10pm: Origin co-founder Richard Cary posted the following on Origin's forums:

The decision to take AMD GPU’s off the web was made based on support. More Specifically, support from AMD to Origin, and Origin to our customers. Take their last chipset announcement for example. It was another hardware representative that informed us of the new Hawaii chipset. AMD never told us anything about it, nor shared a road map outlining its future integration.

When we did get with our AMD representative, we were told that there was a new chipset launching, and we could watch the event live and get answers to our questions. We also asked for samples to start our research and development process, something that is standard in the industry for bleeding edge integrators, and we were met with resistance there.

How can we ask questions at the event live, if we haven't had a chance to R & D the reference boards? When they did agree to send samples it was for 2 R9 270’s, rather than the R9 280's or 290's that we would be more likely to offer. We are performance based and focus on high end systems.

Moreover, this wasn’t the first time AMD had done something like this to us. Support from AMD to Origin hasn’t been where it should be or up to par like we get from other vendors. In my opinion it's due to our size. We don’t move enough AMD product for them to worry about us. You would think they would work with us to help grow the Origin- AMD business relationship.

With regard to supporting Origin customers who chose AMD product, it’s been an uphill battle. ”Primarily the overall issues have been stability of the cards, overheating, performance, scaling, and the amount of time to receive new drivers on both desktop and mobile GPUs”.

Those 2 issues, combined with the very low percentage of Radeon cards that we sell, it didn’t make sense to continue offering AMD GPU’s. The way they treated Origin during the announcement of the Hawaii GPU showed AMD didn’t care for Origin's business relationship. In effect, AMD dropped us.

As far as Nvidia paying Origin to do it, that simply didn’t happen. Nvidia doesn’t make enough in sales from Origin PC to justify the allegation. The numbers aren’t there for Nvidia to come close to six figures, (or any amount) the basic math shows that. Without giving away trade secrets, Nvidia doesn't make the cards, they make the GPUs. So every time Manufacturer X sells a video card, Nvidia makes a small percentage. If you multiply that number by how many systems we sell per year, the allegations simply don't add up.

Conspiracy is exciting, and everyone loves controversy. The reality is, it's nothing that exciting. We feel AMD left us hanging on both sides of support so we reacted. If and when things change and we feel we can offer AMD and provide systems to our customers that will provide the best overall experience we will. We don’t have brand loyalty. We have customer loyalty.

Cary's comments corroborate the notion that there was indeed a little something more going on behind the scenes that led to Origin's decision--but it wasn't NVIDIA buying them off, it was Origin being ticked off at AMD. That's a big difference. And as we posited above, Origin had subjective but valid reasons to stop working with AMD on the GPU side. Wasielewski was less expansive then Cary, but both have flatly denied that NVIDIA was involved with their decision.