Rumour: BFG opens doors to ATI

A shake-up could be imminent in the cosy land of Nvidia-exclusive board partners, as BFG is rumoured to be planning to open its doors to ATI.

The rumour comes courtesy of [H]ardOCP’s founder Kyle Bennett, who says "The rumor we are hearing today is that BFG is going RED! Totally unconfirmed, but given the history I have heard over the last few years... yes years... this does not sound implausible."

Indeed, it doesn’t sound implausible, especially given XFX’s shift to the red team at the end of 2008. However, it’s a move that would take a lot of balls in the current economic climate. Our own sources say that BFG may indeed enter the ATI race, but that the cards are unlikely to be high-end monsters based on the new Radeon HD 5800-series of chips.

This isn’t just because the market for high-end gaming cards is shrinking, but also because of the limited number of top-end 40nm chips available for allocation at AMD’s end. Our sources say that there are currently rows erupting between Sapphire and XFX over AMD’s allocation of top-end ATI GPUs, and it’s unlikely that AMD will want to cause any further problems by adding another board partner to its political headaches.

On the other hand, BFG will have had a hard time in recent months, as there’s still no sign of Nvidia’s latest Fermi hardware, and Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang says that the architecture’s production won’t hit “full stride” until at least May.

Then again, Nvidia is going to be extremely unhappy with BFG if it opens its gates to its main GPU competitor, and any potential punishment imposed by Nvidia could also be very damaging to the company. Just look at what happened when former Nvidia partner Hercules started producing Kyro II cards in 2001.

Interestingly, our sources also say that BFG could have gone down the ATI route before XFX, but that the company decided against the idea at the time. To us, this doesn’t sound like a company that’s heading over to ATI, but we could be wrong.

Either way, watch this space. We reckon it’s unlikely that BFG’s going to start producing high-end ATI cards, but it might have a stab at the lower end of the ATI spectrum.

Now that XFX has already made friends with the red team, the loss of BFG would leave Nvidia with an even bigger dent in its roster of exclusive board partners.