There’s a lot going on right now in the world of video cards, but one of the hard truths that we have to face as gamers is that the actual super truth is that we’re hitting a point where the fidelity of games isn’t utilizing the entire graphics card power and thus, we’re looking at suffering in the video card market for a myriad of reasons and how people game is entirely one of them.
People are quick to say “supply shortages” and “silicon shortages” as the reason for video card stock shortages and to a degree, it’s the simple answer, but what if I told you GTX 680s being viable today is probably a lot more involved in why there isn’t a rush to solve a what is now over a year long shortage in video cards.
The Bargain Bin’s the Reason
The biggest reason behind the ongoing video card crisis is simply that demand is at a sweet spot, where the mass market consumer is easily supplied through third-party PC building vendors and the niche market has less supply than demand, meaning anything that goes on sale… will sale.
Increasing the supply will match then exceed demand, returning to the days of video cards sitting on store shelves collecting dust as they rapidly approach the bargain bin as new releases shadow previous launches.
So it’s in the manufacturers best interest to keep things as they are now, where new video card supply is mostly controlled via scalpers unless you purchase a pre-built computer. Adding more supply will mean the new video cards that come out will just make everything they’ve produced into budget builds of the future and reducing supply any further will likely just make people start figuring out how to build their own video card companies at this point.
Indie game studios have or soon will reach an upper limit on fidelity with the tools and staffing affordable to them. I would put it at somewhere around a GTX 1060 being the sweet spot for ultra on most indie games, even ones with aggressively fantastic graphics. Even then, that’s being very generous – many games could likely run on cards from 2012-2014 just fine on high, we’re talking GTX 680 here.
AAA studios do make games that CAN use the power of a RTX 3080 or higher, but they also build their games to scale down and play fine on medium for around a RTX 1060 or lower (GTX 680 being the baseline isn’t much of a joke here). Sure Cyberpunk is going to need a RTX 10xx or higher to run decently well, but that’s one of like a bazillion games on the market right now.
Fortnite won’t need anything stronger than a RTX 1080 by the time the 30xx super refresh hits and when we hit the 40xx series or whatever naming scheme they want to use by then it’ll be the same story.
Desktop vs. Laptop
An article on Futurum research explains the decline in desktop sales well – year over year for the last 10 years desktops continue to decline. Laptops and now hybrid tablet/keyboard models are the preferred computing devices. They don’t require dedicated space in a home, recapturing the space those massive computer desks used to take up. You can take what you’re working on with you and best of all, they’re inexpensive and snappy.
A budget laptop today is going to boot in seconds and it’s likely going to play Fortnite just fine or League or maybe even Overwatch depending on how much money has been thrown at it. There’s lots of gamers who are totally fine playing on large heavy gaming laptops just because they want to play games on the sofa with a controller and the system plugged into their TV and then lay in bed and chat with friends. Then take it to their parents house to visit and be able to take some zoom calls with it.
These use cases continue to expand, which continues to push pressure on game developers to focus on lower specs and optimize there and continues to push the true roof of demand for dedicated GPUs lower.
Remember professionals need GPUs to render things and server farms need silicon and chips to… well be server farms.
So they get first dibs, which naturally means their mass consumption hampers the needs further down the chain.
NVIDIA NOW is coming out with a cloud GTX 2080 setup.
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Naturally, the anxiety and frustration around supply along with laptops being preferred devices make the shortages nothing more than a funnel to cloud services, where NVIDIA has been working hard on building a steady following a stable platform with lots of games on it.
Something to think about.
Everything Adds Up
So take in supply issues and a lot of reason to not get these cards in more hands and you quickly see there’s a lot to why you can’t walk into a Best Buy and snag a new 3080. It also means we may be waiting awhile for more stock.