The past 18 months have seen a graphics card shortage the likes of which the PC gaming platform has never experienced before. What should have been a great time of hardware innovation in late 2020 was quickly marred by some severe supply issues leading to some of the best graphics cards for gaming being more elusive than ever.
There are a few obvious factors as to what's caused the graphics card shortage, namely the state of the world since the beginning of 2020, but also more to consider, too. There is a bit of a silver lining to this story, though, as graphics card prices on what RTX 3060 stock and RTX 3070 stock is available seem to be slowly declining, with RTX 3080 prices showing a slight decrease, too.
We're evaluating the current state of the GPU market, as well as what's caused the graphics card shortage, and what the future of video cards heading into 2022 is going to look like. With the likes of Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti supposedly on the way, and Intel Arc Alchemist units bound for Q2 2022, it's looking as though the next few months could be more encouraging than the past two years have led us to expect.
What's caused the graphics card shortage?
The graphics card shortage came about in late 2020 due to three major factors, with perhaps the most damning being the outbreak of Coronavirus at the start of the year. The worldwide pandemic has seriously impacted every facet of the technology industry, with consequences reaching far beyond just GPUs and the best gaming PCs, and affecting PS5 stock and Xbox Series X stock as well.
The semiconductor shortage came about due to increased demand paired with considerably reduced supply, as production lines were being halted on chipsets, and other processing elements, causing unforeseen challenges. As a result, graphics card companies such as Nvidia and AMD couldn't get their hands on the necessary materials to get their latest lines of video cards out to the public in the required numbers. The supply chain had taken a hit unlike anything it had seen in recent memory.
Are scalpers responsible for the graphics card shortage?
That's only one side of the story, though. Perhaps not in equal measure, but certainly a contributing factor is the rise of not only scalping but also crypto mining. We won't go into too much detail on this front, but let's just say that any graphics card with at least 8GB VRAM is able to mine popular cryptocurrencies, and it's easier than it has ever been to do so. When you factor in that every RTX 30 series GPU has a minimum of 8GB GDDR6 memory starting with an MSRP of just $399, then it's no surprise that the cards were snatched up as soon as possible.
Whether human or bot, scalpers were keen to exploit the supply chain issues that caused the graphics card shortage. We've covered many GPU launches over the past two years, and we can tell you that many day-one listings are often gone within a matter of minutes (if not seconds), save for a few rare circumstances. If we take the recent launches of the RX 6500 XT and RTX 3050 for instance, both video cards carried a modest price point ($199 and $249 respectively). While the goal from both Nvidia and AMD may have been to provide an affordable entryway into current-generation PC gaming, the low barrier to entry meant that these GPUs were prime targets for scalpers looking to hoard them to resell at inflated rates.
Out of the two graphics cards released in January, the RX 6500 XT is still fairly affordable and available for its actual retail price, but the RTX 3050 is just as hard to get your hands on as the rest of the Ampere line. Why is this? Well, AMD's budget RDNA 2 GPU only runs 4GB GDDR6, whereas the RTX 3050 doubles up to 8GB, meaning it can technically mine, albeit poorly.
When will the graphics card shortage end?
We've been tracking graphics card stock for a considerable amount of time and can tell you one thing; slowly but surely, it is getting better. PC gamers in the US and UK have seen more affordable, though still inflated, rates on popular video cards by both major manufacturers.
3DCenter.org has provided some stellar visual data indicating graphics card prices compared to both availability and the costs of cryptocurrencies, as you can see below:
This data shows a definitive through-line between the beginning of 2021 and the start of 2022. It's evident that GPU prices reached their apex in May of last year, with outlandish price gouging from both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. However, we're also seeing the prices begin to fall, however minor that reduction is.
The most recent analysis by 3Dcenter.org suggests that graphics card prices are going to continue to fall through until the summer, when it's possible that we'll see the cheapest rates on the likes of the RTX 30 series and AMD Radeon RX 6000 line yet. Nothing is guaranteed, however, and given how volatile the market can be, we wouldn't be surprised to see spiking happening sooner rather than later.
It's a point made by us on many occasions, though one that needs to be said again. The most cost-effective way right now to get your hands on new graphics cards is through either cheap gaming PC deals or one of the best gaming laptops. This is because the prebuilt market has not been spiked in quite the same fashion.
Should you wait for the RTX 4000 series instead?
Given that the graphics card shortage has raged on for almost two years now, we're nearing a point in time where the next generations are due to be upon us. If you can't find RTX 30 series stock close to (or at) MSRP by now, then you may be better served in saving your money and waiting until the latter half of the year. A new graphics card generation is right around the corner, with competition from Intel due in the next few months, as Intel Arc Alchemist could launch between May and June.
We'll be continuing to bring you the latest RTX 30 series stock updates and pricing information on new GPUs as they happen. While the graphics card shortage isn't exactly over, we're also in a better place now than we were, so here's hoping that 2022 can deliver on this front.
Be sure to have your setup ready for a new PC, with the best gaming desks or best standing desks, and one of the best gaming chairs too.