There has never been a better time to be a gamer on paper. With new consoles finally available and an array of powerful graphics cards, we should all bask in the light of the next generation of games.
But most of us aren't.
It started with bots quickly buying pre-orders for Nvidia's RTX 3000 series graphics cards in September. Nvidia apologized for the sloppy release, but here we are months later – and it's still difficult to buy either of these cards for their MSRP. A quick scan at Amazon and Newegg confirms this. You must be very lucky to buy one of these cards at a fair price. It's not common to see high-end cards like the Nvidia RTX 3080 for more than double their retail price.
It's not a unique problem for GPUs, but it takes the wind out of the sails of the big moment of PC gaming. So what's going on here?
You can blame bots and the high demand for this, but the problem extends beyond GPU supply and annoying bots. These GPU manufacturers see limitations in the components that are used to make the graphics cards.
"We have supply bottlenecks, and our supply bottlenecks go beyond what we see in terms of wafers and silicon," said Colette Kress, Nvidia's chief financial officer, at Credit Suisse's 24th annual technology conference. This comes from a report on PC Gamer. “But yes, there are some restrictions on substrates and components. We continue to work on our offering during the quarter, but believe that demand will likely exceed supply for all gaming in the fourth quarter. "
The component that Kress is referring to is likely the GDDR6 memory module, according to the French publication Cowcotland, and it could take weeks to resolve the issue. Typically, manufacturers order memory modules in bulk to reduce costs. If the GDDR6 supply is limited, it will take longer for orders to be fulfilled.
Nvidia's two high-end cards, the RTX 3090 and the flagship card RTX 3080, both use GDDR6X memory, so they are less affected by this particular component shortage. Even so, both cards are hard to find due to the overwhelming demand. However, the RTX 3070 and the recently introduced RTX 3060 Ti both use GDDR6 memory, as do all of the newer AMD Radeon cards. All of these cards are likely more prone to the GDDR6 supply problem.
With the GPU supply chain constrained, Kress speculated that it "will be a few more months for product availability to keep pace with demand" – a schedule that could lead us into February 2021 at the earliest.
New consoles feel effects
Although Nvidia was previously ridiculed for the company's problem in keeping up with demand, rival AMD is experiencing similar supply bottlenecks following the introduction of its Radeon RX 6000 cards. And since AMD also supplies components for the latest consoles, console gamers looking to buy Microsoft Xbox Series X and Sony PlayStation 5 may be unlucky this holiday season and be in the same boat as their PC gaming counterparts.
"We produce chips and cards in large quantities," wrote Frank Azor, AMD's chief architect for gaming solutions and marketing, on Twitter. “The demand for play equipment has grown exponentially this year and exceeds the best forecasts of all. We want nothing more than to put more cards in the hands of players. I am working on it. "
Azor's views were confirmed by Nvidia in a conversation with journalists ahead of the RTX 3060 Ti launch earlier this month. The company found that due to local stay-at-home orders resulting from the global pandemic, Nvidia had 10 times more visitors to its website compared to previous launches, and many of its partners had demand above that in previous years from Black Fridays.
“I can tell you I've been doing this for about 15 years, and at any other point in our history you know if you've looked at sales last year and our supply pipeline for those launches I would have told you it was great looks and is super healthy, ”said Justin Walker of Nvidia.
These bottlenecks also create a black market for stolen GPUs as thieves raid graphics card heists on vans and products exchanged on Amazon Shipments. Heck, according to a report, even cargo shipping will be in high demand in the next few months, as COVID-19 vaccines have the high priority.
Like many things planned for 2020, the next generation of high-performance games will have to wait until 2021.