Never Settle: Reloaded Bundle Levels Up



Company: AMD
Author: James Prior
Editor: Sean Ridgeley
Date: May 15th, 2013

Circus of Values

When you have a long time between product refreshes, there are a few different strategies you can take. With the cost per transistor going up and the acceptable total power level for devices going down, making a bigger die with more stuff in it -- for example, the HD 6970 follow up to the HD 5870 -- isn't an option anymore. This leaves two options: binning and rebrands, or adding value.

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AMD have opted for option two, adding value. This is delivered using the Never Settle: Reloaded program, now entering its third iteration: Level Up. The current Never Settle: Reloaded promotion cards -- the AMD Radeon HD 7790, HD 7800 series, and HD 7900 series -- get a bonus game title beginning May 15th.

The Level Up program is a limited time only promotion, and stacks on top of the recent bonus offer with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon that began on April 11, for which codes were delivered at the beginning of May to all Never Settle: Reloaded redeemers.

The new promotion adds Tomb Raider to the Bioshock: Infinite and FC3: Blood Dragon bundle for the buyers of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 Bonaire GPU. Consumers who purchase an AMD Radeon HD 7800 series card get Crysis 3 in addition to those three titles, and AMD Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 buyers get all four titles as well, now including Tomb Raider.

Unlike Blood Dragon, the new bonus Level Up games are not retroactive and only apply to new purchases from May 15 and onwards, while supplies last. With a recent leaked BIOS indicating NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 700 series could be a rebrand of their current cards (for example the GTX 680 sliding down the stack a notch to be the GTX 770), higher performance at lower prices could be on the horizon.

Both AMD and NVIDIA have true new generation cards in the works: Volcanic Islands and Maxwell respectively. AMD appear to be on track for a Q4 2013 introduction, whereas NVIDIA appear to be landing around Q1/Q2 of 2014. This timing shows why a speed bump rebrand makes sense for NVIDIA but not AMD.

We haven't seen the full extent of the Never Settle program yet: the Radeon HD 7990 is currently offered to bundle eight games but will ultimately top out at ten; odds are Battlefield 4, demonstrated on dual HD 7990's at GDC, will be included.

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The program is not without flaws: region locked codes are being sent to the wrong customers causing some extended headaches. The Never Settle program is unique in that the retail channel are handling the codes, not the add-in board partners. Moving the burden has upsides and downsides: it concentrates the codes to avoid over commitment and pools of unused codes but also exposes the codes to less scrupulous vendors selling them on the side, region mismatching, and unfocused problem resolution.

Overall, Never Settle remains a good idea. A few tweaks to implementation -- including a central dedicated worldwide help site -- would be a boon for customers struggling to redeem codes; I have never received a Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon code despite redeeming a Never Settle Reloaded code in March and there's no obvious 'help me!' for AMD4U.com. This doesn't stop Never Settle from being a success, but AMD need to be mindful what the lasting impression is. There should be focus on supporting the few Gamers having problems in getting their codes, making it right, and doing it quickly.

Given the choice between a ~10% faster rebadge and the Never Settle program, I'd pick the Never Settle program every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The best option would have been a Q1 2013 revamp getting all the ASIC's to feature the new and improved power tune as seen in Bonaire, but the long lead times of GPUs and the sliding schedules of foundries (and the changing costs) make that a blue sky dream rather than any kind of reasonable expectation.

Visit AMD's Level Up webpage for a frequently updated list of participating retailers.