The Way It's Meant To Be Played™ (TWIMTBP, pronounced 'twin tub') is the name and slogan of a promotional program run by the graphics chipset manufacturer NVIDIA aimed at gamers. It is a cross-promotional initiative created with the intention of associating NVIDIA's hardware with high profile (and graphically advanced) PC game releases. The publisher of the game places the circular NVIDIA 'The Way...' insignia on the game's packaging (and usually includes it as a brief animated logo when the game is launched). In return for this, NVIDIA include the game in their showcase website, and finance print and online advertising featuring the game. ("He has the right equipment to play this game... do you?")

There is still a great deal of confusion in some circles as to what inclusion of a game in the TWIMTBP scheme implies, a situation that NVIDIA have been unconcerned about rectifying. Early reports about the scheme by characteristically unreliable sources suggested that branded games could contain graphical effects that would only work on NVIDIA hardware, or in extreme cases would detect the brand of graphics chipset in the host computer and refuse to run if it was anything other than NVIDIA. These claims were false.

Even if the TWIMTBP scheme doesn't tie the game to NVIDIA's hardware, one might still ask if it is the case that the game will have been developed to run better on NVIDIA chipsets than on those of their competitors. Again, this is not necessarily the case. The TWIMTBP affiliation can be applied to a game very late in, or even after, its development. As far as I am aware, there is no verification or testing process required for inclusion, at least, none that takes into account the comparitive performance of the game running on different GPUs. The extent of NVIDIA's involvement with the game's development may only extend to making a reasonable effort to ensure that the game runs without error on NVIDIA hardware out of the box. ("Install and Play".)

Owners of non-NVIDIA cards should not shy away from purchasing TWIMTBP-branded games. In all cases, the developers' interest will lie in ensuring the game runs acceptably on as many brands of hardware and configurations as possible. It is extremely unlikely that support for other chipsets would be neglected as a result of inclusion in the scheme.

Surprisingly, considering the fiercely competitive nature of the graphics hardware market, ATi (NVIDIA's main rival as of this writing) have not pushed their own co-branding program anywhere near as aggressively. (In fact, I only found out they had one while researching this writeup.) ATi's scheme is called 'Get in the Game', and appears to have enlisted far fewer titles to its cause, suggesting that ATi were caught napping on this particular front while NVIDIA were busy signing up the lion's share of publishers.

ATi do however have an ace up their sleeve - their program has signed up the highly anticipated Half-Life 2. NVIDIA have responded to this by signing Id Software's forthcoming DooM 3 to their roster. In both cases graphics cards will be bundled with copies of the respective games.

In the light of the TWIMTBP program's success, the co-branding concept has been adopted by manufacturers of many other kinds of computer hardware, from sound cards (Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy) to complete gaming systems (Alienware, FalconPC). It seems likely that this proliferation will eventually weaken the effectiveness of the co-branding message ("Plays best in Fruit of the Loom y-fronts!") and the trend will sooner or later peak.

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