For the past two years, I’ve scoured the web for any glimmer of hope that graphics card prices might come back to earth – an ongoing shortage of GPUs has forced us to hunt for inventory, resulting in high prices and costs to enter the wonderful world of PC gaming. Largely in vain, of course.
Today, however, I can be much more positive about my findings.
Search major retailers in the UK, EU, and US and you will find something odd when you search for the rare graphics card in their virtual shelves. Not only are there GPUs in stock, but there is wide availability of many models and versions to suit multiple budgets. Scroll through Best Buy, Overclockers, or MindFactory and you’ll be pleasantly greeted with a listing after listing “in stock”, “available to purchase” or “add to cart”.
However, only a few, if any, are for graphics cards at or near MSRP.
The only GPU regularly spotted near or at MSRP is AMD’s RX 6500 XT, one of the latest additions to the RX 6000 line. It’s not a card we quite like, in all honesty, but it’s a modern GPU that looks like anything close to affordable.
Beyond that, website 3DCenter has been keeping tabs on graphics card prices over the past year, and its latest German report shows both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards with average prices around 25% off MSRP. It’s the lowest premium on graphics cards noted in the site’s report in over a year, and the improved supply has no doubt ended the frenzied demand that has seen graphics cards double , or even triple, their original value.
But how long can graphics card price inflation last if the stock continues to improve?
I guess not for long, although it won’t be as simple as going back to “business as usual” and offering cards at MSRP anytime. The status quo for two years hasn’t come close to MSRP, and that has all sorts of implications throughout the supply chain.
With hundreds of graphics cards listed as being in stock at several major retailers in Western Europe and North America, there is undoubtedly a competitive advantage for retailers who can lower prices more than others. Although this is a double-edged sword for most: manufacturers have had to deal with rising prices for key components, and this has trickled down to the retail chain. More often than not, it’s the customers who end up footing the bill, but if the demand drops so completely and the supply improves, it may be the retailers who have to bear the brunt of the lower prices.
These increased component costs would decrease now and in the months to come. We’ve also heard directly that GPU maker Asus is aggressively lowering the prices of many of its GPUs.
Although for existing stock at retailers today, these costs are less likely to have an immediate impact. After all, these SKUs were likely purchased at a higher cost to the retailer months ago. GPU lead times have been so long in recent years that we’ve heard of retailers ordering well in advance to guarantee stock.
Although retailers may have little choice if all goes well for GPU sourcing. It’s like the Jenga price tag: if one retailer lowers its prices, others will likely follow.
Speaking to Dr. Thomas Goldsby, Haslam Chair of Logistics in the University of Tennessee’s online master’s in supply chain management program, about this specific topic, he told me that retailers are inclined to act in this way when it becomes clear that supply is catching up with demand.
“As for the graphics card situation, I would expect prices to come down when it becomes clear that supply is catching up and they are readily available,” Goldsby says. “A vendor there will get nervous that they’re sitting on a huge supply for an item that has a limited shelf life (with new cards coming onto the market) and make the decision to eliminate that excess. of stock. The peer suppliers will then have to follow this lead. And back to equilibrium, we fall back.
Graphics cards absolutely fall into the category of limited life items. While they won’t mold or turn into foul fridge slime, AMD and Nvidia will always push performance boundaries to deliver gains with every generation, but also to maintain their appearance as cutting-edge companies. technology. Both companies are doing just that, developing new Lovelace and RDNA 3 graphics cards for launch later this year.
Intel is also on the cusp of launching its first Intel Arc graphics cards on mobile platforms, further increasing the pressure on what’s available today.
So these cards have to go, and if the demand isn’t there at today’s high prices, something has to give.
Major UK tech retailer Box said it expects “things to get back to a more attractive price” by the end of April/early May, in a conversation with Techradar.
What also fuels a competitive retail environment is the ability of customers to discern where and what they are buying. You can’t be picky when supply is non-existent, but once there is wide church availability across model and retailer, customers are in charge again.
The key will be whether this recent influx of graphics cards will be sustained for several months. If it’s possible – and the signs point to an improving supply in the second half of the year – then PC gamers can finally have the freedom to choose what’s best for them, at a fair price, and not having to frantically refresh on a web page for the chance to get the best value cards.
Now, graphics cards that by their nature don’t have much value to begin with, such as the RTX 3080 12GB (not to be confused with the impressive 10GB version), can stay that way. But a few bad apples shouldn’t ruin the barrel, and you never know what could possibly lead to a desperate price drop.
The reasons for the improved supply could be many, but speaking with Dr Goldsby he says the impact of people returning to “normal life” after Covid-19 cannot be underestimated.
“Because of Omicron showing this ugly face and thankfully starting to give in, it helps us both ways,” Goldsby says. “It’s helping us get people to come back and start living a bit more in the direction of normal life. And then also our ability of our supply chains to operate at sort of a pre-Covid level. And so there is some normalization, which I think would help explain why maybe supplies have improved a bit, maybe prices are starting to come down a bit.
“But I see glimmers of hope, just like you,” he continues.
It may be risky to say these words, but I’m really starting to have some hope for the graphics card market in 2022.
For that reason, there’s a good case to be made for those considering a graphics card upgrade in 2022 to bet on improving inventory and dropping prices relatively quickly. After all, you’ve waited so long, why not a little longer and try to get yourself an RTX 30-series GPU at MSRP or less? These cards are now closer to the end of their life than the beginning, and no one should paying too much for them.
It’s still a gamble, but I increasingly consider it worth taking as 2022 progresses.