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EA, Nvidia team up for games

Leading game maker Electronic Arts will promote Nvidia's graphics chips. Is this a black eye for graphics contender ATI Technologies?

Graphics chip leader Nvidia announced a deal Thursday under which leading game publisher Electronic Arts will promote Nvidia products, dealing a possible image blow to graphics contender ATI Technologies.

Under the terms of the deal, EA developers will use Nvidia-based systems for all their work and will boost some games with visual effects specific to Nvidia chips. EA's PC games will also carry a promotion on the box boasting: "Nvidia: The way it's meant to be played."

"Working with Nvidia's high-quality GPUs (graphics processing units) will help us as we continue to enhance graphics performance in our games and produce cutting-edge content," Scott Cronce, chief technology officer at EA, said in a statement..

Kathleen Maher, an analyst with Jon Peddie Research, said the deal is likely to have limited practical implications. Nvidia and ATI have been promoting their own approaches to shading and other high-level graphics effects. "Both ATI and Nvidia have written shader tools specific to their boards, and they're trying to get game developers to write features specific to their shaders," she said.

But EA is unlikely to write Nvidia-specific effects, however, to the point that owners of ATI systems would be locked out. Game makers need to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and ATI, while behind Nvidia, still commands significant market share, Maher said.

Instead, the deal will give Nvidia's image a shot in the arm in the wake of product delays and performance lags, she said.

"This is a big psychological benefit to have the seal of approval from a major game company," Maher said. "I don't see this as a big thing that sweeps through the industry and each of the graphics chipmakers has their pet game developers. But Nvidia has been working on this deal for a long time, and it's really important to them."

ATI representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.