At least three studios allegedly removed DLSS support before launch due to AMD sponsorships

At least three studios allegedly removed DLSS support before launch due to AMD sponsorships

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TL;DR: Over the weekend, John Linneman from Digital Foundry stirred up some ongoing controversy regarding AMD blocking developers from including Nvidia’s DLSS tech with exclusivity deals. The tweets got people on both sides of the argument riled up, and some subsequent deletions and explanations were required to clear the air.

Before sorting out what Linneman said and what he meant, it might help to recap the drama.

In June, Wccftech pointed out that many AMD-sponsored games have FSR upscaling but lack Nvidia’s version of the tech, DLSS, which led to speculation that AMD was preventing developers from implementing its competitor’s technology. When asked about the trend, AMD was vague and non-commital, pointing out that plenty of past releases have DLSS but not FSR.

Episode #118 might be the one Linneman referred to, but no mention of studios dropping DLSS appears in the most relevant section. Could it have been a different show? Linneman has no idea.

Eventually, speculation rose about whether or not Starfield would have DLSS, and most indicators pointed to no, it wouldn’t. So last month, AMD directly addressed the issue, saying it did not block Bethesda from implementing DLSS in its sponsorship contract.

“If they want to do DLSS, they have AMD’s full support,” said AMD Chief Architect of Gaming Solutions Frank Azor, adding that nothing is blocking Bethesda from using it. Some took Azor’s statement as an opaque way of saying, “We won’t stop Bethesda from pulling out of our partnership.”

Thanks to early reviews and confirmation from pre-order players who were allowed early access, we know that Starfield does not have native DLSS support. Although worry not, there’s already an app for that. However, it still does not answer whether AMD’s sponsorships involve exclusivity clauses or other types of discouragement from using DLSS.

Just to re-iterate – if you see this post, it is NOT about Starfield at all. It is about other, unrelated games – we reported on this weeks ago. Some reddit people took this to mean Starfield but it is absolutely NOT related to Starfield.

– John Linneman (@dark1x) September 3, 2023

Over the weekend, John Linneman seemed to confirm that Team Red was forcing studios to forego DLSS implementation. He claimed to have spoken with three developers who had already coded DLSS support into their games but were told to remove it because it would damage their AMD sponsorships.

Although he never mentioned Starfield, many people thought Bethesda was one of the three studios. Linneman says his comment was regarding a weeks-old episode of DF Direct, in which they discussed the controversy. However, going through several recent shows, we could not find any mention of these claims. However, Linneman was vague in his reference to the show in question, even when directly asked for the episode, so we may have just been looking in the wrong place.

The one where we were talking about Starfield some weeks ago. I can’t recall exactly.

– John Linneman (@dark1x) September 3, 2023

Regardless, the misunderstanding sent an uproar through the community. Linneman deleted his original tweet and reposted a clarified version, repeatedly stressing that he was not referring to Starfield. There is some speculation that Bethesda or AMD asked him to remove the post, but he didn’t indicate as much, and we could find no evidence that was the case. Linneman claims he removed it because people immediately made the link to Starfield and misconstrued the comments.

So what do we know?

Well, we know that Bethesda did leave DLSS support out of Starfield. That is not smoking gun proof that AMD forbids developers from implementing it, but it sure is terrible optics on an issue that the company has failed to deal with decisively and transparently. Linneman’s claims would also support the idea of an AMD conspiracy to stifle Nvidia tech using sponsorship deals. However, without any way to fact-check his tweet other than a vaguely referenced DF Direct podcast, you’ll want to keep your salt shaker handy.

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