Have you tried to buy an Nvidia GPU or AMD GPU recently, only to be hit with pre-order buttons and “stock not available” nightmares? Well, expect the misery to carry on for at least a couple more months.
As good as the new line of GPUs and silicon has been over the last couple of months, actually buying them — a console, CPU, GPU — has been practically impossible. It’s been so bad that companies have formally apologised, multiple times, and there’s been no prospect of a respite any time soon.
But even those who were patiently waiting for PC gaming upgrades — since users at least have some clarity on when those might arrive in the country — will have to be supremely patient. At the annual CES Tech Investor Forum this year, Nvidia’s chief financial officer Colette Kress offered more bad news.
Q: But the problem is that given all of this strong demand, and I just checked, like for example, some of the retail sets at Best Buy today, I still can’t get an RTX 3070, RTX 3080, RTX 3090, your latest RTX 3060 Ti. I still can’t get it. It’s sold out everywhere. And so, can you give us an update on supply availability? Are the constraints more focused on wafer supply or advanced packaging and substation supply? And more importantly, when does the NVIDIA team expect the situation to improve?
Nvidia’s Colette Kress: Thanks for that question. So in order to talk about supply, we first have to discuss the demand. We did have an exceptional overall holiday season. Gaming demand is off the charts. Our overall Ampere architecture and ray tracing are really a true success. This demand has remained stronger for longer. Okay? So, supply does remain tight at this time. We expect the overall channel inventories, meaning the inventories that are with our AIC partners as well as in our e-tail and retail channels will likely remain lean throughout Q1. Our overall capacity has not been able to keep up with that overall strong demand that we have seen.
As a reminder: Nvidia’s fiscal first quarter ends on April 28 each year, which is a miserably long wait. And what’s not helping is that the vast majority of Nvidia’s gaming base aren’t even RTX card owners. Kress revealed that the amount of concurrent users on Steam has grown by 40 percent year over year, and with more gamers looking for upgrades — and more people getting into gaming because of COVID — that just adds even more pressure onto an already-too-thinly-stretched supply chain. Some users have suggested that cryptocurrency miners might be adding to the problem, but Kress said Nvidia would revive their line of CMP graphics cards — basically GPUs without video ports that are dedicated for mining — if demand reached that point.
AMD hasn’t been quite as open about their supply troubles, but the news isn’t good on that front either. In a roundtable interview with journalists, AMD CEO Lisa Su said the company would no longer be phasing out their RX 6000-series reference designs:
We are committed to keeping GPU pricing as close to our suggested retail pricing as much as possible, because it’s the only way to be fair to the users. Normally when we have GPU launches, our own branded cards are available initially but then fade away for our partners to pick up. This time around we’re not phasing out our RX 6000 series, enabling us to sell direct to customers as low as possible. We’re encouraging partners to do the same. Not only tariffs, but the COVID environment has increased shipping and freight costs, which are hard to avoid.
AMD originally told the Australians at Hardware Unboxed that third-party RX 6000-series cards would be sold at MSRP prices “within 8 weeks”. But if AMD isn’t going to phase out their reference designs, that’s an indication that they’re not expecting partners to fall in closer to MSRP at all. And given that AMD’s own supply issues aren’t about to go away any time soon — remember, they’re having to balance production of their own 7nm CPUs and GPUs alongside the 7nm SOC solutions for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which are equally impossible to buy — it’s no surprise that the AMD CEO didn’t specify how long this situation would persist for.
The one small hope is that consumers at least have more alternative options for GPUs now, even if they can’t buy the card they initially want. That doesn’t solve a lot of issues when everything is out of stock all at the same time, but as more shipments trickle into the country over the coming weeks and months, it’s at least something. I’d argue the best option at this stage is probably just to hold off as long as possible until the value-per-dollar comes back into line with the original MSRP pricing.