If you, like me, are one of the many looking forward to Black Friday to bag a deal on a graphics card, don’t get your hopes up. It's been two long hard years since the market blew up, and, while things are steadily returning to normal, actual deals on graphics cards have been as rare as hen's teeth.
The more I research the graphics card market, the more doubtful I become of a huge blow-out sale on these once readily available components. I'm strongly leaning on the 'don't get your hopes up' side just based on the prices I've been tracking over the past year or so. Sorry to be a party pooper, but I strongly recommend keeping your expectations low for the upcoming Black Friday deals - on graphics cards, at least.
The dream of a cheap graphics card
Ever since the graphics card and crypto market blew up I've had a dream - and that dream is a new RTX 3080 for around £550 to £600. You may think that's unrealistic but remember we were promised a huge crash after the Ethereum moved to proof of stake. There were prophecies of used GPUs flooding the market, offering an absolute cornucopia of cheap silicon as the crypto miners sold off their rigs like rodents jumping off a sinking ship.
I'll fully admit, I completely bought into this, mostly because of two good reasons. First of all, I'm absolutely desperate to buy a graphics card after sitting it out for two long lockdown-ridden years. Secondly, I'm a cheapskate who hates paying full price for tech - I do after all write buying advice for a living.
Compounded together, you've got a recipe for someone who wants to believe that the next golden age of cheap graphics cards is just around the corner. Unfortunately, the current outlook doesn't look as good as we were expecting; in fact it's almost like we're headed in the opposite direction.
GPU prices just ain't falling
Yep, not from what I can see, anyway. I track graphics card prices every month and I'll be honest - I haven't seen many prices drop precipitously of late. On the contrary, I've actually spotted quite a few examples where the exact opposite is true.
Let's take the well-known specialist retailer Overclockers.co.uk's graphics card listings as an example. From what I can see, its listings for lower to mid-range Nvidia graphics cards have actually gotten more expensive after the past month or so. A couple of weeks ago I spotted an RTX 3060 Ti for £409. Now the cheapest listing in stock is hovering at £439. It's not a wild difference, but it's a slap in the face if you were expecting this aging card to take a nosedive in value.
Another example is the RTX 3070 Ti at Overclockers. Just a few weeks ago I saw a listing of £659 for this card. Not only is the cheapest listing now £719, but all the cheaper options are now all sold out.
Over in the US, prices seem to be holding up a lot better but I'm still seeing plenty of sold-out listings over at Newegg. Again using the Nvidia cards as an example (namely because they're the most popular cards), nearly every listing from the RTX 3050 to the RTX 3080 has roughly stayed consistent in pricing over the past month or so. While this isn't a solid indicator of high demand, it seems like we've settled into a rut where cards that are over two years old are still comfortably being sold at over MSRP.
Now, don't get me wrong - compared to last year's absolutely ridiculous graphics card prices, these listings are peanuts. But, that doesn't change the fact that the much-heralded post-Ethereum merge GPU price crash simply hasn't materialized. Perhaps it's still to come; who knows, but we're starting to get pretty damn close to Black Friday now with fairly stagnant pricing across the board.
The only reason I can see behind persistent or rising GPU listings at retailers, aside from high demand, is that they may be keeping their powder dry for Black Friday. It's not uncommon for retailers to adjust prices ahead of a big sale but the myriad out of stock listings has me doubting that they're planning a last-minute comeback next month.
There's another worrying indicator that high GPU prices are here to stay - the RTX 4090 launch. This behemoth of a card - while extremely impressive - debuted at an absolutely eye-watering MRSP of $1,599 / £1,699. This price made a lot of gamers (myself included) wince at the thought of shelling out for one.
But we did. In fact, pre-orders on the RTX 4090 sold out worldwide, proving that gamers not only have deep pockets, but they're willing to pay out the nose for the best of the best. Simple supply and demand would determine that the chances of us getting cheaper prices on graphics cards is a fever dream right now, at least around big launches.
I think Dave James writing for PCGamer summed it up rather nicely when he stated that now that we're past the pandemic 'we're left purely with the burden of inflation and the certain knowledge in the minds of marketing departments across the globe that people will still pay.'
I think this line, which was written over a month ago, will pretty much sum up the graphics card market over the next year, and most definitely Black Friday. You can hope for a price cut on that RTX 3080 but retailers - like Nvidia - know that the latent demand from gamers is still incredibly high right now. They're unlikely to come out swinging on Black Friday if they can get away with no more than minor discounts.
The bottom line
So the outlook isn't great for Black Friday graphics card deals. I may be wrong, but I just don't see retailers offering discounts that are exceeding the ones we've seen over the past month or so. By all means, if you're sitting on a wad of cash right now then it's worth at least checking out what's on offer come Black Friday but I wouldn't bank on being able to build that new PC for a thrifty sum. Instead, we're potentially faced with an even longer game - or, even worse, GPU prices fixed at a permanently higher level. Hey, there's always next Black Friday right?
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Alex is deals editor at TechRadar. With over three years of experience on-site and eight years working in e-commerce, Alex has made it his personal mission to share all his favorite tips, bargains, and deals with our readers here at TechRadar. At work, he specializes in computing, phones, and covering huge sales events like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. Outside of work, you'll find him indulging his keen love of photography and PC gaming, or down at the local climbing gym hanging off boulders far too difficult for his abilities. His editorial bylines also include contributions to T3 and GamesRadar.